Study Finds Health Risk with Zinc Nasal Gels

An emerging study has just confirmed what we have long been reporting, that there exists a dangerous link between zinc nasal sprays, such as <"">Zicam, and anosmia—a loss of one’s sense of smell. The LATimes wrote that the study, published in the Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, found that zinc nasal gels can cause anosmia in some patients.

The study involved 25 patients at a nasal dysfunction clinic and a review of “clinical, biological, and experimental data,” wrote Science Daily previously.

Zicam products are a popular line of homeopathic remedies used to decrease the duration of the common cold. The active ingredient in Zicam products is zinc gluconate, which can have a caustic effect on the nasal passages. Over time, this caustic effect can cause Zicam intranasal users to lose their sense of smell.

Anosmia can be extremely dangerous, as the ability to smell alerts people to fires, poisonous fumes, leaking gas, and other potentially fatal emergencies. In addition to completely losing their sense of smell, Zicam users stricken with anosmia are also robbed of their sense of taste. Because they can no longer enjoy food, many anosmia sufferers fail to take in adequate nutrition.

The recent study found that over-the-counter (OTC), homeopathic nasal therapies containing zinc might be linked to a reduction in one’s sense of smell, said Science Daily. The team utilized nine criteria from a 1965 study that demonstrated a causal link between lung cancer and smoking, noted the LATimes. That criteria—The Bradford Hill Criteria—involves a review of the link’s strength, risk of disease, and if increased exposure leads to increased disease, in addition to other criteria, said the LATimes

At least one team member confirmed zinc gluconate taken by mouth does not pose a danger, but taking it nasally can burn olfactory tissue, noted the LATimes. As expected, Bill Hemelt, chief executive of Matrixx Inc.—maker of Zicam—defended his firm’s products. “The common cold is the No. 1 cause of loss of sense of smell, and naturally people who use the product and have a cold are misattributing the result to our product,” said Hemelt, quoted the LATimes.

In June 2009, the FDA warned consumers not to use three Zicam intranasal cold remedies: Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel; Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs; and Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, Kids Size. The warning followed the agency’s receipt of over 100 anosmia reports linked to these three Zicam products. At the same time, the agency issued Matrixx Initiatives a warning letter citing its failure to provide adequate warnings about the risks of these dangerous Zicam products.

Sadly, the FDA did not require Zicam to undergo clinical testing for safety because the treatment is considered a homeopathic remedy. This, as well as a dearth of warnings about the potential health consequences of zinc, left Zicam users unaware that the product could permanently rob them of their sense of taste and smell. More information on this issue can be accessed at:

While Matrixx Initiatives denied its products links to anosmia, calling the findings “scientifically unfounded and misleading,” it did ultimately recall both products, quoted the LATimes.

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