Health Care

Millions of used, substandard medical gloves imported into US: report

Suppliers in Thailand dyed used medical gloves, some of which were visibly soiled or bloodstained, to make them appear new before exporting them to the United States, a CNN investigation found.

Thai health authorities raided a facility that was exporting the gloves in December and found migrant laborers attempting to make the gloves appear unused, the network reported. Criminal investigations surrounding the operation are ongoing.

CNN’s investigation found that tens of thousands of the second-hand, substandard gloves arrived in the United States. The organization appeared to capitalize on the increased demand for medical-grade nitrile gloves spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Douglas Stein, an industry expert, told CNN that nitrile gloves are the “most dangerous commodity on Earth right now.”

But despite the health and sanitary concerns the gloves caused for front-line health care workers and the patients they treated, regulations for medical gloves remain inadequate, CNN found.

U.S. authorities temporarily discontinued import regulations for protective medical equipment at the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak, but those regulations remain suspended today, according to the network.

Earlier this year, a U.S. company alerted both Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it had received unhygienic, visibly used gloves from Thailand. Yet the Thai company that produced the gloves continued to ship millions more to the U.S., CNN reported.

The earliest complaint from that American company was reportedly issued in February, but gloves from the same Thai company made their way to the U.S. as recently as July.

In August, the FDA did issue an alert that shipments from Paddy the Room, a Thai-based company, should be held without physical examination, according to CNN, which added that the directive came five months after at least two U.S. businesses filed complaints about the company. 

“As a general matter, the FDA cannot comment on any ongoing investigations,” a spokesperson for the agency said in an email to The Hill. “The FDA is committed to taking action against violative or fraudulent medical products in order to protect health care personnel and public health.”

The spokesperson added that medical gloves are “a critical resource, particularly during the pandemic” and said that the FDA has taken “a number of steps to find and stop those selling unapproved products by leveraging our experience investigating, examining and reviewing medical products, both at the border and within domestic commerce.”

Louis Ziskin, one of the U.S. entrepreneurs who bought gloves from Paddy the Room, told CNN he could not send them to hospitals as a result of their poor quality and described them as “a total safety issue.”

“To me the fact that these companies were never blacklisted is shocking,” Ziskin told the news outlet.

–Updated at 2:21 p.m.


Tags COVID-19 supply chain PPE Protective gear

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