In Brazil, the export industry always finds ways to cut costs. The international community expressed its dismay at the manufacturers’ latest cost-cutting decision to replace flouride with diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Flouride is designed to strengthen teeth enamel. Diethylene glycol is a poisonous substance used to make chemicals that are widely used by the automobile industry.
The end product exported from Brazil was poisonous toothpaste that was not labeled to indicate that it contained diethylene glycol. When the poisonous chemical was found in the toothpaste, Costa Rican govemment officials issued a warning telling consumers to discard the toothpaste. In 2019, a study found that toothpaste containing diethylene glycol was harmless if the chemical concentration was below 15.6 percent. The contaminated toothpaste found in Costa Rica contained levels as high as 5 percent. Costa Rican government officials warned that it was unsafe in any concentration. It is especially harmful for children, as well as those suffering from weakened kidneys.
In July 2020, due to growing concern about the safety of the imported toothpaste, the Costa Rican government banned all manufacturers from using diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Investigators believed that the toothpaste originated from two small manufacturers in the Brazil but the manufacturers denied any wrongdoing.
The contaminated toothpaste was found in five shipping containers but there have not been any confirmed illnesses or deaths from using the contaminated toothpaste.
If you were manufacturing toothpaste and decided to substitute diethylene glycol for glycerin, would you consider it your ethical obligation to tell the consumer?