How Millions Of Used Medical Gloves Reportedly Made Their Way To The U.S.

Whether you work in healthcare, the food industry, or just took a stroll through the pharmacy within the last year and a half, chances are you've snagged a box of classic blue nitrile gloves. The threat of a seemingly invisible virus infecting and killing people, especially at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to a surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), which included gloves. With demand exponentially increasing worldwide and a limited supply of natural rubber and manufacturing tools, a CNN investigation has uncovered the plot to exploit the global cry for help. 

The investigation found warehouses in Thailand where dirty and used gloves littered the floors. Workers were seen washing soiled, sometimes even blood-stained gloves, drying them in machines, and re-dying them to appear good as new. These substandard products, many of which provided forged inspections, were then shipped to the U.S. and other countries for use. One Thai company, in particular, called Paddy the Room, has sent approximately 200 million gloves to U.S. distributors throughout the course of the pandemic.

An independent inspection performed in Los Angeles on alleged counterfeit gloves found that the newly imported goods were not even nitrile, but rather "lower grade latex or vinyl." It's important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally banned powdered latex gloves from use in healthcare settings. If you're wondering how widespread fraud of this magnitude is even possible, you're not alone.

What U.S. officials are trying to do about the situation

The sudden influx of faulty PPE has been made easier by the FDA's temporary, but still ongoing, suspension of tougher import regulations on medical equipment (via CNN). Louis Ziskin, a successful tech entrepreneur, ordered $2.7 million worth of gloves from Paddy the Room via a third party during the pandemic. After an independent inspection of the imported goods determined the products to be substandard, Ziskin could not in good faith sell them to U.S. hospitals. Instead, he alerted both the FDA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in February 2021, and so did others. However, records indicate that despite being alerted, 28 containers with over 80 million gloves from Paddy the Room still entered the U.S. 

Five months after initially being alerted, the FDA sent out an alert to all port staff, demanding that all shipments received from Paddy the Room be detained without physical examination. Currently, U.S. and Thai authorities are conducting criminal investigations. Thailand's FDA has carried out more than 10 major raids, seizing faulty gloves being repackaged as new. 

It is still unclear if any of the used gloves actually made their way into our healthcare system, putting U.S. health workers and patients in danger. With the pandemic still affecting the world, proper handwashing and hygiene seem to be the safest ways to slow the spread of disease.