July 28, 2009

Toxins found in Bangladeshi pain reliever

A toxic chemical in a widely used pain reliever and fever reducer is believed to have killed 25 children in six weeks, Bangladesh authorities said Tuesday.

The health ministry conducted two tests on the suspect over-the-counter paracetamol, or acetaminophen, syrup, and each time we found diethyl glycol, Health Minister A.F.M Ruhul Haque told reporters. It's a toxic chemical used in the textile and leather dyeing factories.

The chemical causes kidney failure, he said.

Instead of mixing propylene glycol as a solvent with the paracetamol syrup, the drugmaker added the toxic industrial chemical because it's 10 times cheaper, Haque said.

The 25 children were between 1 and 5 and lived in the country's Comilla District, about 60 miles southeast of the capital, Dhaka.

The plant, also in Comilla, has been shut down, Haque said.

No criminal charges have been filed in the deaths, CNN quoted authorities as saying. Police are looking for the company's owners and pharmacists.

In 1990, paracetamol solution laced with diethyl glycol killed more than 300 children in Bangladesh.

The deaths prompted the government to ban the sale of paracetamol syrup for some time.