American drugmakers are on the lookout this week for another in the growing list of potentially deadly Chinese exports. This time, it's diethylene glycol, a sweet-but-toxic chemical that masquerades as glycerin in common medications like cough syrup and that has already killed almost 400 people—many of them children—in Panama.
A New York Times investigation tracks the chemical's deadly path back to China's Yangtze Delta, where a tailor with fake credentials passed off the glycol as glycerin syrup. The glycol moved through three continents undetected before a Panamanian doctor traced a wave of deaths to its presence in cough syrup. Chinese drug monitoring is "a black hole,” says a local trader.