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July 26, 2012 / Alison Wilson

Mercury poisoning caused by skin products

On Tuesday, the FDA issued a Consumer Update warning  that certain skin care products can cause mercury poisoning.  Products containing mercury are apparently being marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, and wrinkles. According to the Consumer Update    , the mercury-containing skin care products are manufactured abroad and being sold illegally online and in local shops across the United States.

So far mercury-containing products have been found in at least seven states and health officials have identified more than 35 products that contain “unacceptable levels of mercury.”  The FDA update also reports that, a California woman who had been using a face cream from Mexico had more than 100 times the average amount of mercury in her system.  California health officials have  issued an alert warning against the use of the use of such products.

The FDA advises that teenagers are also at risk.   According to Gary Coody, national health fraud coordinator in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, mercury-laden products are also being marketed as acne treatments.  Apparently, a teenager in Texas was hospitalized for mercury poisoning after using a skin cream that contained the toxic metal.  The FDA report revealed that when Texas health officials tested samples of a face cream, they discovered it had up to 131,000 times the allowable level of mercury.

Signs and symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity due to inorganic mercury may include nervousness and irritability, difficulty with concentration, headache, tremors, memory loss, depression, insomnia, weight loss, and fatigue.   Other symptoms may include numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

For tips on determining whether your products contain mercury, check the labels of your skin care products for “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.”  If any of these ingredients are listed on your skin care products, stop using it immediately because the products may contain mercury.   A more comprehensive list of mercury containing products can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health’s  website.

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