As Seizures Top 400 in U.S., China Carfentanil Trade Thrives

SHANGHAI (AP) — Seizures of the deadly chemical carfentanil have exploded across the United States, with more than 400 cases documented in eight states since July alone, The Associated Press has found.

Fueled by a thriving trade out of China, the weapons-grade chemical is suspected in hundreds of drug overdoses in the U.S. and Canada. An AP investigation last month showed how easily carfentanil can be purchased online from China. Of the 12 companies that initially offered to export carfentanil around the world, just three have stopped since the report was released. Nine continue to offer carfentanil for sale, no questions asked, and the AP identified four additional companies willing to sell the drug, some of which claimed to have U.S. addresses.

Asked for comment, most denied they’d ever made the offers.

Jilin Tely Import and Export Co. initially boasted in an email that carfentanil was one of its "hot sales product." After being named in AP’s story, the company’s website vanished and it denied ever producing carfentanil.

All these vendors profit from a loophole in the global regulation of a substance whose toxicity has been compared with that of a nerve agent. Carfentanil is a controlled substance in the U.S., where it can be used legally to immobilize large animals like elephants. But it is not controlled in China, the top source of fentanyl-related compounds that end up in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"It’s a loophole that needs to be closed because even small quantities can have a terrible lethal effect," said Andrew Weber, who served as U.S. assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs from 2009 to 2014. "Terrorists could acquire it commercially as we have seen drug dealers doing."


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