Tens of millions of dirty, used, and counterfeit nitrile gloves - some of them stained with blood - have been shipped to the United States from Thailand in recent months as fraudsters look to take advantage of the surge in demand for medical equipment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An investigation conducted by CNN has found that Thai companies are repackaging used gloves and reselling them worldwide, including in the US, where federal authorities are only beginning to understand the scope of the crisis.
Earlier this year, Thai law enforcement agencies raided warehouses of companies who sold reused nitrile gloves abroad. Workers at the warehouses used dye to color the used gloves and laundry dryers to dry them after washing.
In February and March, a US company warned the Biden administration that it had received shipments with visibly soiled gloves from a company based in Thailand.
The warning was issued to both Customs and Border Protection as well as the Food and Drug Administration.
Despite the warnings, the counterfeit shipments continued to be imported into the country as recently as July, according to CNN.
Earlier this year, Thai police raided a warehouse that was repackaging and selling used, counterfeit medical grade nitrile gloves
Thailand-based warehouses would ship the used gloves to the United States, making millions in profit even though the products they were selling were counterfeit
In February and March, a US company warned the Biden administration that it had received shipments with visibly soiled gloves from a company based in Thailand. The warning was issued to both Customs and Border Protection as well as the Food and Drug Administration
Workers at the warehouses used dye to color the used gloves and laundry dryers to dry them after washing
In order to meet the emergency demand, the federal government lifted important regulations at the height of the pandemic - enabling the shipments of defective gloves to enter the country.
Medical nitrile gloves are used by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who examine patients.
After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic and most governments announced mitigation measures, demand for the nitrile gloves skyrocketed.
As supply dwindled, fraudsters found an opportunity to take advantage by selling soiled, second-hand gloves at a profit to governments and hospitals that were running desperately low on medical grade nitrile gloves.
In the US, the FDA has banned the use of powdered latex gloves.
Medical grade nitrile gloves are produced mostly in south and east Asia using natural rubber.
The factories that produce the gloves use highly specialized manufacturing processes and expertise, making it difficult to ramp up supply in a short period of time.
That created a void filled by shady businesses looking to turn a quick profit selling bogus gloves.
The image above shows a pair of soiled, used gloves that were seized in raids by police in Thailand
Tarek Kirschen, a Miami-based businessman, ordered $2million worth of gloves from Paddy the Room, a Thai-based company.
Kirschen then sold the gloves to an American distributor.
'We start getting phone calls from clients completely upset, and you know, yelling and screaming at us saying, "Hey, you screwed us",' he told CNN.
'These were reused gloves. They were washed, recycled...Some of them were dirty.
'Some of them had bloodstains. Some of them had markers on them with dates from two years ago... I couldn't believe my eyes.'
Kirschen told CNN he refunded the money to his clients and threw the gloves into a landfill.
In February, he notified the FDA.
According to CNN, other American distributors purchased 200 million gloves from Paddy the Room during the pandemic.
Two of the distributors told CNN that the shipments were substandards and that the gloves weren't even nitrile.
Uweport, a US-based company, said it was unable to resell the gloves to medical companies.
Instead, the gloves were sold at a lower price to distributors that supply food processing plants, hotels, and restaurants.
US Liberty LLC told CNN that it