Tons of used medical clothing reportedly shipped from Brazil to Charleston

Image by Flickr user Francisco Javier Argel

(Updates at the bottom.)

Ready for the strangest news story you'll hear about this month? There's a purported ship coming from Brazil to Charleston with 46.6 tons of medical waste on board.

If you're thinking, "Don't these stories usually involve the U.S. sending its nasty bits elsewhere?", you're right. Brazilian authorities found the tons of used medical supplies in the Pernambuco region of Brazil at he port of Suape inside two shipping containers and have sent them back to the port of origin, along with 15 other "suspicious" containers.

Odder still is that this story appears to have broken way back in October 2011 in Brazil and is apparently only making the U.S. media rounds after an a FOX Latino report.

The concern in Brazil was not only if these materials were being illegally sent but that a landfill was not its destination — the used items soiled with what appeared to be blood in some cases may have been used locally for garment making.

But are these "second hand" medical items really Charleston bound, and did they depart from the Lowcountry? The Post and Courier got a hold of the story and asked around locally and no officials are claiming to have knowledge of the matter.

Update February 16: The Post and Courier has followed up on this story from a Charleston perspective and while a smidgen more has been learned, there's still very little know about just where the mystery return is going or went.

For an ounce of pure unsubstantiated speculation: Color me not surprised if there's no money in bothering to return off-market medical goods to a first world port of origin, and if those goods may have left the U.S. under a less-than-accurate shipping description.

If you'd like to do some of your own sleuthing, there's an English-language report at The Latin America Herald Tribune and a more detailed local report at the Jornal Local in Portuguese (Google translated version here).

A section of the later translated report reads, "The investigative team of a newspaper of Pernambuco bought nine sheets of the company. Some were stained and have three identifications of origin as "Baltimore Washington Medical Center University of Maryland Medical System." The company is accused of selling scraps in the garbage, whole pieces or made into lining his pockets. The price was calculated on the scale. A kilo of linen cost $10."

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