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Woman dies from toxic diet pills bought online

Police in the U.K. are warning about the dangers of buying diet pills online after the death of a 21-year-old college student.

Eloise Aimee Parry died Sunday, April 12, just hours after taking tablets that promised to help with weight loss. Police said the pills are still being tested, but are believed to contain a "highly toxic and very dangerous" substance called dinitrophenol, or DNP.

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Eloise Aimee Parry died at age 21 after taking diet pills containing DNP. West Mercia Police

"She was literally burning up from within," Eloise's mother, Fiona Parry, said. She recounted the story in a statement released by police to help protect others from making the same deadly mistake.

She said her daughter drove herself to the hospital in Shrewsbury when she started to feel unwell. At first, no one realized how grave the consequences would be.

"She had taken even more of these 'slimming tablets' than recommended on the pack and had no idea just how dangerous they really were," her mother said. "How many of us have ever thought 'If one tablet works, surely it won't hurt to take one or two more?'"

"That all changed when the toxicity report came back and it was clear how dire her situation was. The drug was in her system, there was no antidote, two tablets was a lethal dose -- and she had taken eight."

Hospital staff did their best to stabilize her condition, but they were helpless to stop the drug's toxic effects.

"As the drug kicked in and started to make her metabolism soar, they attempted to cool her down, but they were fighting an uphill battle," her mother said. "She was literally burning up from within. When she stopped breathing, they put her on a ventilator and carried on fighting to save her. When her hearted stopped they couldn't revive her. She had crashed. She had taken so much DNP that the consequences were inevitable. They never stood a chance of saving her. She burned and crashed."

Eloise's mother is sure it was not an intentional overdose. "She just never really understood how dangerous the tablets that she took were," she said. "Most of us don't believe that a slimming tablet could possibly kill us."

Officials from Britain's Food Standards Agency urged the public not to take any substance containing DNP. "It is an industrial chemical and not fit for human consumption. It can be extremely dangerous to human health," the agency said in a statement.

The hazards of DNP have been known for years. A report in the Journal of Medical Toxicology published in 2011 cited at least 62 deaths known to have been caused by the toxic chemical in diet pills. "DNP is sold mostly over the internet under a number of different names as a weight loss/slimming aid," the study said. "Patients suffer a combination of hyperthermia [dangerously high temperature], tachycardia [rapid heartbeat], diaphoresis [excessive sweating] and tachypnoea [rapid breathing]," leading to "massive cardiovascular collapse" and death.

Diet pills with DNP are not FDA approved. In 2003, two men in the U.S. were convicted on charges of selling adulterated drugs and violating interstate commerce laws for selling DNP online as a diet aid. The FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations said the case came to light after a woman died from the pills.

"It is a deadly toxin," Eloise's mother said. "It is similar to TNT in structure. TNT is an explosive. DNP causes your metabolism to run at an explosive level, with potentially fatal consequences."

The West Mercia Police department said it continues to investigate where the pills came from, and asked the public for help if they have any information.

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