Looks like it’s getting harder to plan your beauty regimen. Remember how the FDA recently released a report about lipsticks containing lead? Well now the FDA has released an official warning to consumers about various skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps and lotions that may contain mercury. Yikes. Obviously, you don’t want to dip into a jar of mercury-spiked anything and rub it into your skin. The FDA reminds consumers that mercury is a poison. Contact with mercury can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, plus interfere with fetal development and affect the brain development of very young children. Worse, you can be affected by mercury even if you don’t use the products yourself. FDA toxicologist Mike Bolger, Ph.D. Bolger states, “People—particularly children—can get mercury in their bodies from breathing in mercury vapors if a member of the household uses a skin cream containing mercury.” If you use these creams and your baby touches you then puts his hands in his mouth, he’ll be exposed too. The products in question are manufactured abroad and it’s illegal to sell them in the United States, however, the FDA has found seven states (California, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland and New York) selling such products recently, hence the warning. Keep reading to learn more and see pictures of contaminated products.
Over the last few years, FDA investigations and state health officials have discovered more than 35 products that contain unacceptable levels of mercury in the seven states noted above, although more states may be affected. You’re likely to find mercury laced products sold in beauty shops in Latino, Asian, African or Middle Eastern neighborhoods and online. While the FDA has added mercury-containing skin products to its import alerts, it won’t solve the problem says Gary Coody, national health fraud coordinator in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. Coody notes, “Many of these products are coming into the country through channels we can’t easily track, such as international mail and personal baggage. That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of these skin products.” Texas health officials say samples of face cream they’ve tested have up to 131,000 times the allowable level of mercury and in California, one woman was found to have more than 100 times the average amount of mercury in her urine along with symptoms of mercury poisoning. The California Department of Public Health reports that the California woman had been using an unlabeled mercury-containing face cream that was brought into the U.S. from Mexico by a relative for three years and even family members who did not use the cream, including a four-year-old child, have experienced elevated levels of mercury in their bodies.
The FDA says to protect your family you should know the signs of mercury poisoning which includes irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, memory problems, depression and numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth. Be sure to check the label of any skin lightening, anti-aging or other skin product you use for the words “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.” If you read these words on a label, stop using the product immediately. If there is no label or ingredient list on a product, don’t use it. You can also keep up with mercury containing products at the Minnesota Department of Health website. The FDA says that if you suspect you’ve been using a mercury laced product, stop using it immediately, thoroughly wash your hands and any other parts of your body that have come in contact with the product and then contact your health care professional or a medical care clinic for advice. You can also call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222; it is open 24 hours a day. Your health care provider or Poison Center can also tell you how and where to dispose of mercury containing products.
Lead image by rondelious via sxc.