Tens of millions of fake nitrile gloves imported to US, CNN reports

A CNN investigation released Oct. 25 found that tens of millions of fake, secondhand nitrile gloves have been imported to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection told CNN it has seized about 40 million counterfeit masks and hundreds of thousands of other counterfeit personal protective equipment.

Nitrile gloves are mostly made in south and east Asia. When the pandemic began in 2020, many companies got into the personal protective equipment business to boost supply and make a profit. But the U.S. has struggled to combat the influx of counterfeit and low-quality nitrile gloves coming into the U.S., CNN reported.

One of the reasons the U.S. has struggled to combat the fraud is because regulations for PPE were temporarily suspended during the height of the pandemic and are still suspended, according to CNN, which reported that other import regulations also have been temporarily suspended. 

Douglas Stein, an expert on PPE purchasing, told CNN that the temporary suspension of regulations was necessary to meet the increased demand for PPE, but that it "opened the floodgates for all the nefarious behavior." 

The FDA told CNN that companies still have to make sure the PPE they order meets certain quality standards to make sure the products don't pose a risk, but CNN found that few physical checks have been made on nitrile gloves or other items arriving in U.S. ports. 

Mr. Stein told CNN that because of how many counterfeit nitrile gloves have made it to the U.S., he believes it's likely that some have been used in medical settings, but it's unclear if the fake gloves have harmed any healthcare workers or patients. He called nitrile gloves the "most dangerous commodity on earth right now."

A big question is how many more counterfeit and faulty nitrile gloves are at U.S. warehouses and ports, CNN reported. 

The U.S. is conducting criminal investigations into the imported counterfeit PPE. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also created Operation Stolen Promise, a program designed to crack down on counterfeit PPE, according to CNN

The FDA told CNN it 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."

Read CNN's full investigation here.

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