The Food and Drug Administration has issued a
warning about skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps, or lotions that might
contain mercury. While products containing mercury are prohibited in the
United States, they are turning up in growing numbers in several U.S.
states, including California.
In fact, California health officials sent out a similar medical alert in
February after tracing the mercury poisoning of a 39-year-old Alameda
County woman to an illegal skin-lightening cream smuggled in from Mexico.
The products are marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments
that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes and wrinkles, according to
the FDA. However, the mercury in these products poses a serious health
risk. Mercury can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere
with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children.
“You don’t have to use the product yourself to be affected,
says FDA toxicologist Mike Bolger, Ph.D. “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.”
Infants and small children can ingest mercury if they touch their parents
who have used these products, get cream on their hands and then put their
hands and fingers into their mouth, which they are prone to do, adds Bolger.
To protect yourself, the FDA offers the following advice:
How to Protect Yourself
- Check the label of any skin lightening, anti-aging or other skin product
you use. If you see the words “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,”
“mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury,”
stop using the product immediately.
- If there is no label or no ingredients are listed, do not use the product.
Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on the label of any cosmetic or drug.
- Don’t use products labeled in languages other than English unless
English labeling is also provided.
- If you suspect you have been using a product with mercury, stop using it
immediately. Thoroughly wash your hands and any other parts of your body
that have come in contact with the product. Contact your health care professional
or a medical care clinic for advice.
If you have questions, call your health care professional or the
Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222; it is open 24 hours a day.
- Before throwing out a product that may contain mercury, seal it in a plastic
bag or leak-proof container. Check with your local environmental, health
or solid waste agency for disposal instructions. Some communities have
special collections or other options for disposing of household hazardous waste.
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a dangerous or
defective product, don’t hesitate to
contact a San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.