중앙데일리

Asbestos found in 1,122 medical products from 120 companies

Apr 10,2009
The country’s health authority yesterday released a list of 1,122 medical products from 120 companies that have used talc containing asbestos.

It recalled and banned all but 11 of the products, for which there are no suitable substitutes.

Separately, the Prime Minister’s Office said it will forbid importation of talc containing asbestos and develop comprehensive restrictive measures and standards for the carcinogenic material by the end of June.

The series of actions come a week after Korean media began reporting on baby powders, cosmetics and drugs that were found to contain asbestos.

The list of companies disclosed by the Korea Food and Drug Administration included leading pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Dong-A, Hanmi, Yuhan Medica, Green Cross and Choongwae.

Some widely recognized drugs to be taken off pharmacy shelves are Dongkook’s Insadol, an auxiliary treatment for some gum diseases; Dream Pharma’s Actice, a stool softener; and Ilyang’s Azintal Forte, a digestive agent.

“Consultations with a range of experts have revealed that a minimal amount of asbestos in drugs for internal use carry only a small risk to health. But we have decided to ban their sales based on judgment that even the slightest amount should not be overlooked,” said Yun Yeu-pyo, head of the administration under the Health Ministry, at a press conference. He bowed his head in a gesture of apology before the conference began.

Of the pharmaceuticals containing asbestos, sales of 11 - including treatments for hyperpiesia, allergies and children’s respiratory ailments - will be allowed for the next 30 days while replacements are sought.

A meeting of ministries and government agencies with the Prime Minister’s Office presiding decided yesterday to scrutinize talc products that have the potential to carry asbestos. The Korea Customs Office will examine whether imported talc contain asbestos. Should the carcinogen be detected, the imported goods will be banned from entering Korea.

The office will conduct inspections of imported cosmetics and drugs to see if they contain asbestos. The Knowledge Economy Ministry will also examine consumer products made of rubber and paper that use talc.

Meanwhile, Choi Young-hee, a lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Party, said yesterday that the Labor Ministry has been aware for 21 years that there was a risk that talc materials used by cosmetics and medical goods contain asbestos.

He said despite this, the Health Ministry and the Korea Food and Drug Administration were unaware of it, and thus failed to develop restrictions on asbestos in talc.

In 1988, the Labor Ministry classified airborne talc exposure into two categories: exposure that contains asbestos and exposure that doesn’t. But the information was not shared with different ministries.

“If the Health Ministry and the KFDA had knowledge of talc regulations by the Labor Ministry, the latest series of asbestos-related incidents could have been prevented,” Choi said.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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