Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 14:37 UK

Bangladesh medicine 'was toxic'

Dhaka map

Traces of a toxic chemical have been found in a paracetamol syrup believed to have killed 24 children in recent weeks, officials in Bangladesh say.

The infants, who were all between the ages of 11 months and three years, died after apparently being given a locally-made brand of paracetamol syrup.

Doctors investigating their deaths have now confirmed that, as suspected, the syrup contained diethylene glycol.

This is a toxic chemical used in the textile and leather dyeing industries.

Bangladesh's Health Minister AFM Ruhul Haq said diethylene glycol had been mixed with the paracetamol because it is 10 times cheaper than the normal solvent.

"We conducted two tests on the paracetamol syrup and each time we found diethyl glycol. It's a toxic chemical," Mr Haque said.

The victims lived in Brahmanbaria, an eastern district where the authorities have closed down the company which made the medicine in addition to ordering a withdrawal of its products while the health ministry conducts an investigation.

Company officials were not available for comment.

The children all died of kidney failure over the past six weeks.

The BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka says that officials believe that diethylene glycol was also responsible for the deaths of as many as 300 people in Bangladesh the 1990s. They too took contaminated medicine.

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