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Denture Cream Zinc Poisoning Poses Serious Health Threat

Jan 1, 2010 Although Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral and plays an essential role in many bodily functions such as high-level brain functions (learning and memory) and in major organs like the liver, kidneys, and eyes, too much zinc can be extremely hazardous to your health. As a result, zinc’s role in maintaining good health is compromised when excessive amounts of it are ingested. In fact, high zinc levels can lead to permanent learning and memory problems, nerve damage, and other serious health conditions, including cancer.

While one might think it is difficult to ingest zinc in the amounts needed to cause these types of serious injuries, common consumer products such as denture adhesive creams (Poligrip, Fixodent, etc.) as well as cold remedies like Cold-eeze and Zicam contain significant levels of zinc and pose a health threat when used excessively.

People who use such excessive amounts of denture cream are at high risk to suffer from zinc poisoning. While one tube of denture cream is meant to last a month, people with loose-fitting dentures often use one to two tubes a week.  Coupled with the zinc they are taking in from other sources, it is easy for denture cream users to inadvertently ingest substantial amounts of zinc.

The recommended daily intake for zinc is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women, as outlined by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).  One gram of denture cream contains between 17 and 34 milligrams of zinc (depending on the brand).  It has been found that those who overuse denture cream could be getting as much as 330 milligrams of zinc every day.  This level of ingestion is known to cause extremely adverse health conditions- consuming more than 50 milligrams of zinc per day over the course of a few months has proven to create health problems.

Since most of the approximately 35 million Americans who wear dentures are elderly, they will likely have used the product every day for many years without being aware denture creams contain this potentially-dangerous ingredient. The FDA does not require disclosure of the potential for denture cream zinc poisoning on these products.  Some denture cream makers have begun to include package warnings about the risks of using their product in excess, including information about the dangers of zinc poisoning.  Consumer advocates, however, maintain that the warnings are too little, too late.

Zinc and Neuropathy

A healthy body requires a delicate balance of zinc and copper. When zinc levels spike, the corresponding levels of copper fall, causing health issues to develop.  Copper is essential for a number of physiological functions, and thus a copper deficiency can lead to problems like dizziness, sleepiness, numbness, paralysis, incontinence, muscle weakness and discomfort.  The most damaging effect that zinc poisoning causes is neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system most commonly associated with diabetes. Neuropathy causes muscle-tingling, and can progress into extreme pain, and loss of muscle control in the arms and legs.  Signs and symptoms of neuropathy include:

  • Gradual onset of numbness and tingling in feet or hands, which may spread upward into legs and arms
  • Burning pain
  • Sharp, jabbing or electric-like pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Lack of coordination, motor skills
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
  • Bowel or bladder problems if autonomic nerves are affected

When zinc poisoning goes untreated, neuropathy can cause the irreversible loss of balance and weakening of the extremities. One particular zinc poisoning patient complained of weakness in her arms and legs. The weakening progressed so intensely, the patient became wheelchair-dependent. On top of this, the patient developed urinary incontinence as well as some cognitive decline.

Other zinc poisoning patients have complained of weakness in both feet and hands. This weakness resulted in an incapacitating loss of stability, thus constraining their daily living. All zinc poisoning patients analyzed in the study had been using denture creams for a while, many of them excessively.

Super PoliGrip, Fixodent and other denture creams were identified as the cause of nerve damage and the development of neurological problems in a study published in the journal “NeuroToxicology” in late 2009.  The study involved 11 patients, all of whom used large amounts of denture products like Super PoliGrip and Fixodent for ill-fitting dentures, resulting in significant zinc overdosing.

The 11 patients had suffered from significant injuries and neurological disorders for a period of years. Blood tests confirmed that each suffered from zinc poisoning and copper deficiency.  The patients’ zinc and copper levels normalized once they discontinued using denture cream. 

The researchers concluded, “Inappropriate use of denture cream appears to be the sole source of excessive zinc in these patients.” Unfortunately, discontinuing the use of denture cream did not alleviate the neurological problems, which, despite balanced levels of zinc and copper, appear to be irreversible.

This study is not the first to point to a link between denture creams and neurological disorders. In August 2008, the journal “Neurology” reported on four patients suffering from neuropathy and other neurological symptoms typical of zinc poisoning and copper depletion. It was determined that excessive use of denture cream was responsible for their symptoms.

Zinc and Other Complications

The brain is not the only region where zinc plays a major role. The prostate contains some of the highest levels of zinc in the human body, and evidence suggests a link between zinc and prostate cancer.  A study from the National Cancer Institute revealed that ingesting more than 100 mg of zinc a day doubles a man's chances of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Zinc is essential for proper eye function, and in an attempt to counteract macular degeneration (the major cause of blindness in elderly people in the Western world) doctors prescribe supplements that contain 80 milligrams of zinc. In a small percentage of these cases, zinc helps slow the progression of blindness by a year or two.

More recently, however, it was discovered that people taking these zinc supplements were 50% more likely to end up in the hospital with urinary tract problems. In a group of more than 3,500 people, about 11% had urinary complications, compared with about 7.5% of people who took zinc-free supplements.

Since zinc’s benefits to the human body are numerous, the dietary supplement and over-the-counter (OTC) drug markets have been flooded with products seeking to capitalize on the seemingly miraculous power of this mineral.  These supplements promise everything from boosting immunity and warding off viruses to improving prostate health and increasing sexual prowess.  Most of these claims are unfounded or greatly exaggerated. In fact, since an overabundance of zinc in the body can be quite harmful, boosting zinc levels indiscriminately is not a good idea at all.

While denture creams are one source of zinc poisoning, they are by no means the only products that can contribute to the problem.  OTC cold remedies such as Cold-eeze and Zicam Cold Remedy nasal sprays also contain high doses of zinc.  Zicam was involved in class-action lawsuit in 2006, after being linked to hundreds of cases of anosmia (the permanent loss of the sense of smell).  The FDA advised consumers to discontinue use of several Zicam Cold Remedy products due to the risk of anosmia in 2009.  Cold-eeze quietly discontinued production of their zinc nasal sprays after the FDA began investigating its link to anosmia.

Both Cold-eeze and Zicam still have products on the market that contain high levels of zinc.  While these products have yet to be conclusively linked with zinc poisoning such as with denture creams, these products should be uses sparingly, since they can certainly contribute to the excessive ingestion of zinc. This is especially so if you are using other OTC products or supplements that also contain zinc.

If you or someone you know uses Poligrip, Fixodent or another brand of denture cream and suffers from neuropathy or other neurological symptoms, we urge you to contact one of our denture cream zinc poisoning lawyers as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.  Free consultations are available through the firm’s website at www.yourlawyer.com, or by calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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