04/11/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is Your Medicine Cabinet Poisoning You?

American consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of the products they use.  And with good reason.  Just this month, Toyota announced one of the largest vehicle recalls in our nation's history.  And it seems a new recall of tainted food -- from spinach, to peanut butter, to ground beef -- is announced each week.  But the products that could prove potentially hazardous are not limited to our driveways and refrigerators.  One of the most dangerous places in your house might just be your medicine cabinet.

Pharmaceutical drugs often make headlines, not only for the penchant of celebrities to abuse them, but also because many are pushed through the approval process without a complete understanding of their potential side effects.  Thalidomide is the most tragic historical example, when more than 10,000 children were born with deformities because their mothers took the "wonder drug."

But over the last two years, the public has learned that even over-the-counter products can prove extremely dangerous and debilitating.

Remember the commotion over acetaminophen, that ubiquitous pain reliever found in everything from Tylenol to Nyquil?  We learned last year that even small doses of this medication can cause serious liver damage.  In fact, it is the leading cause of liver damage in the United States.  And what about Zicam nasal spray?  Last year, the Food & Drug Administration pulled the cold remedy from shelves because it was causing consumers to permanently lose their sense of smell.  The FDA documented more than 130 cases of consumers who suffered long-lasting or even permanent nerve damage as a result of the drug.

Now, Americans have yet another product to be wary of:  denture adhesive.  As strange as it sounds, dozens of consumers have been left permanently disabled by this seemingly innocuous product.  The makers of popular brands of denture cream, Poligrip and Fixodent, have been adding zinc to their denture cream product for years -- and not just trace amounts.   In fact, each gram of Poligrip denture cream contains more than four times the recommended daily dose.

Consumed in large quantities over extended periods of time, zinc can cause serious neurological problems, including a condition known as neuropathy.  The American Academy of Neurology published a study in October 2008 documenting the medical link between denture cream and neurological disease.  This condition, which generally manifests itself through a loss of sensation or tingling in the hands and feet, is progressive and often extremely debilitating.  More information on the disturbing symptoms of denture cream zinc poisoning is available online at

As an attorney, I've seen the damage these denture creams can do first hand.  Currently, I represent eight consumers who have been permanently disabled by their denture adhesives -- one of whom, Rodney Urbanek, actually died.  And my clients are not alone.  So far, approximately 85 lawsuits have been filed in Miami and Philadelphia against the makers of these zinc-laden Poligrip and Fixodent denture creams, GlaxoSmithKline and Proctor & Gamble respectively.

As consumers, we need to be able to trust that the products we buy are safe.  But contrary to common sense, the products used most often by Americans, also tend to be the least regulated -- dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs.  It's critical that we safeguard the public from the dangers posed by those corporations that would operate with an eye on the bottom line, rather than the safety of their consumers.