Drugs like Tylenol can be contaminated with mold and chemicals

Monday, January 18, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: Tylenol, recall, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drugs kill about 40,000 Americans each year and over the counter drugs (OTC) -- from pain relievers to cough medicines -- cause thousands of additional deaths. Drugs can sicken, and sometimes kill, through side effects, allergic reactions, overdoses and interactions. And now there's another reason to worry about pills you put in your body. A recent recall of the OTC pain reliever TYLENOL Arthritis Pain Caplets has revealed that drugs can be contaminated with mold and chemicals when they are transported and stored on "engineered wood" pallets.

In consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), McNeil Consumer Healthcare (a division of Big Pharma's Johnson & Johnson) recently expanded its voluntary recall to include all lots of TYLENOL Arthritis Pain pills with the distinctive red EZ-open caps. The reason? The FDA received numerous complaints that the pills smelled like mold or mildew. What's more, after taking them, consumers said they suffered from nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and diarrhea.

The drug company press release about the recall discounted these physical complaints reported by people sickened by the musty smelling drugs, saying "to date all of the observed events reported to McNeil were temporary and non-serious". Obviously, however, if someone was already suffering from a serious illness involving their gastrointestinal tract, they might not equate a worsening of symptoms to the Tylenol they took -- or they might not even be well enough to file a report. So the actual number of people sickened by the contaminated pills, and the contribution of the bad meds to a person's illness, may never be fully known.

The drug company identified the source of the musty odor of the drugs, but with reservations. The press release said the smell was due to trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole "which is believed to be the breakdown of a chemical used to treat wooden pallets that transport and store packaging materials". By saying "believed to be", they implied they don't know for sure. They did acknowledge that "the health effects of this compound have not been well studied" -- which is certainly not much reassurance to the folks who took the pain-relievers and then became ill.

Meanwhile, Bob Moore, Chairman and CEO of Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS), a company that manufactures hard plastic pallets for food and drug transportation, spoke out against the use of wooden pallets. Of course, certain types of plastic (especially the soft kinds) are known to sometimes leach chemicals and are not necessarily safe. But plastic pallet-executive Moore made a compelling case outlining the dangers of currently widely used wooden pallets.

In a statement to the media, he warned the pallets are frequently contaminated with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Moreover, they have been shown by numerous lab studies to also harbor deadly food poisoning bacteria and pathogens.

Moore pointed out that while pallets made from wood sound natural but they are actually made from "engineered wood" components that contain urea formaldehyde. This well-known carcinogen can come in contact with food and drugs under a variety of scenarios when products are stored and shipped on wooden pallets. Formaldehyde is also released into the air when it off-gases from pallets in storage and transportation compartments, posing additional risks to workers and consumers.

In addition, to kill insects on the wooden pallets, fumigation is often performed with methyl bromide, a highly toxic, ozone-depleting chemical, according to Moore. And random testing of commonly used wooden pallets commissioned by iGPS showed the pallets are frequently loaded with disease causing germs such as Listeria. The pallets were also found to be downright nasty and dirty -- and sometimes contaminated with rodent nests during storage.

"This (wood pallet storing and transportation) is an industry that openly ignores its own safety rules and transports our food supply on deplorably unsanitary platforms," said Moore. "We call on Congress and the FDA to take a comprehensive look at the role wood pallets play in contaminating our food and drug supplies and to take action."

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