Health & Wellness

What Is NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylamine) And Why Is It A Health Hazard

NMDA might not sound familiar, but you’ve likely heard of Zantac. You’re also probably aware that manufacturers and distributors of this product are in some hot water, legally speaking.

Back in 2018, after random quality testing, the FDA noticed alarmingly high traces of this compound in products used to treat heartburn. Subsequently, Zantac and ranitidine were pulled from the shelves and banned from production in the US.

NDMA or N-Nitrosodimethylamine is found in a handful of household products and other prescription medications. These products include medications for high blood pressure (Valsartan, Losartan, Diltiazem), diabetes (Metformin), and some antihistamines (doxylamine and chlorpheniramine). Many of these products were also subsequently recalled.

NMDA is a chemical compound that used to be used to formulate rocket fuel. After scientists discovered high concentrations in the environment around the factories, it was made illegal to manufacture in the United States.

What makes it dangerous for human consumption is that it’s a known probable carcinogen. That means it is likely to cause cancer.

Where Else Is It Found?

The main source of this chemical is found in the drugs mentioned above, but it is also found in some common household products and foods

  • Shampoos and cosmetics
  • Foods containing nitrosamines- cured or smoked meat, malt beverages (beer, whiskey)

NMDA is a natural byproduct of the cooking process and is not harmful in these instances

  • Cigarette smoke and chewing tobacco

In case you needed another reason to avoid smoking or tobacco, NMDA IS harmful in these products.

When wastewater goes through the chlorination and filtration processes, it produces NMDA as a byproduct. In order to ensure only trace levels exist by the time it is reintroduced as potable, wastewater undergoes several purification steps, including photolysis, reverse osmosis, and microfiltration.

What About Zantac And Those Other Medications?

Zantac and ranitidine belong to a class of drugs called histamine blockers. They work to reduce the concentration of acid in the stomach to provide relief for heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD.

If you’re one of the 15 million people who suffer from these ailments on a daily basis, there are still several options at your disposal. Prilosec (omeprazole), Pepcid AC (famotidine), and natural remedies are suggested as safer options.

What Makes It Harmful?

Time Increases Drug Toxicity

  • Have you ever wondered why medications have an expiration date? It’s because, over time, chemical reactions and changes occur in medications, causing them to become more unstable. In the case of Zantac, scientists discovered that even though the product passed quality inspection, after just 12 days on the shelf, the level of NMDA had reached dangerously unsafe levels for human consumption. To protect yourself, never consume medications after the expiration date and always store them at the recommended temperature.

Known Carcinogen

  • A carcinogen is a chemical that is known to cause cancer. NMDA is classified as a level 2 carcinogen by the American Cancer Society as a probable carcinogen. While there is still much research needing to be collected on humans, scientists already know it causes lung and liver cancer in animals.
  • This chemical in particular is currently the subject of thousands of lawsuits across the country, claiming that patients who used Zantac were subsequently diagnosed with cancer from using it. There are 5 cancers being examined under this litigation: bladder, esophageal, stomach, lung, and liver.

You can find more helpful information on the NDMA fact sheet.

With regards to the current legal action, with the first lawsuit scheduled to begin in October 2022 in California, if you were prescribed Zantac and developed cancer, you might be entitled to compensation. It’s worth having an attorney who specializes in this area look into whether you qualify.

What Else Should I Know?

Most of the time, consuming NMDA does not lead to complications and your body naturally breaks it down in 24 hours. However, if you think you were overexposed, there are some symptoms to be aware of

  • Agitation and confusion
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged liver
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and lung function

The FDA recommends discontinuing any product that causes you an adverse reaction, you should discontinue using it and seek medical attention. If you are having an allergic reaction, stop taking the medication and seek appropriate help.

Again, overexposure is unlikely but in any event, there are treatment options available. FOr ingested NDMA, activated charcoal can be introduced to your stomach. Eye rinses and oxygen are used for exposure as well.

There are many safety measures in place to minimize the chances of being overexposed to this product, but even medications that are taken as prescribed can cause harm. As is the cashew with Zantac. Remember, always follow the directions for use and discard unused medications that have expired.

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