A potential danger in denture cream?

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According to a report from a Fort Worth, Texas newspaper, a previously healthy 26-year-old woman may now be permanently handicapped because long-term exposure to zinc in denture cream eroded her health. At age 26, Elizabeth Gilley, was rushed to the hospital after her unexpected symptoms—numbness in her feet and legs, labored breathing—worsened over six months, until she finally collapsed, the Star-Telegram reports. At the hospital, she was originally diagnosed with leukemia, yet when the blood tests didn’t bear out the diagnosis, doctors were left scratching their heads. It wasn’t until a year after that initial visit that a doctor finally homed in on the potential cause—her denture cream.

Because a genetic condition had ruined her teeth as a teenager, the young woman wore dentures and used zinc-containing denture cream on a daily basis. As an article published last summer in the northern California newspaper, the Times-Standard points out, our bodies need zinc in certain amounts, but exposure levels from regular use of denture cream can exceed what we need:

“Doctors say a recommended daily allowance of zinc, 8 micrograms (mg) for women, and 11 mg for men, is a good thing. According to The National Academy of Sciences, the largest daily tolerable zinc intake is 40 mg… Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern reported finding ingestion as high as 330 mg of zinc daily among their denture cream test population.”

Gilley, who is now unable to walk and must rely on a wheelchair, recently joined some 20 other people who have filed lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Poligrip and Super Poligrip denture creams. According to the Star-Telegram, Polident products carry labels advising consumers not to apply them more than once a day, and warning that large amounts of zinc exposure can have harmful health effects.