Mercury in Skin Creams

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When we use skin creams and other health products we do trustingly, and while assuming that the ingredients will be safe and effective and that they will do what they claim. Fortunately there are regulations and laws in place to help make sure that for the most part we can buy in confidence and use the products without fear of side effects.

However in some cases we might be tempted to buy products that haven’t been subjected to such testing, and that might in fact contain illegal ingredients which pose a serious risk to us. When we use unlabeled creams and supplements, or buy from spurious sources, then we put ourselves and our health at risk for the sake of vanity and meager savings.

Recent news headlines demonstrate this, with pots of illegally imported skin cream being reported to cause mercury poisoning.

The Story

The problem became known when Californian health officials inspected the home of a 39 year old woman diagnosed with mercury poisoning. She exhibited all of the symptoms including headache, depression, numbness and forgetfulness leading them to search her home only to discover tubs of an illegal ‘skin lightening’ cream from Mexico.

The cream was designed to treat acne and wrinkles, as well as to lighten the skin and fade the appearance of wrinkles. The problem is believed to be relatively widespread with at least 22 people so far discovered to have high levels of mercury in their blood streams due to the creams. Dangerous levels of mercury were also believed to be included in skin creams being sold across the Mexican, African, Asian, Latino and Middle Eastern communities in the Twin Cities.

Avoiding the Problem

This story highlights the importance of always being sure to research what you buy – particularly in the case of health care products and consumables. Simply relying on the expertise of the retailer is unfortunately just not enough when anyone can mix together ingredients and sell them under false pretenses.

Simple precautions to take when buying health products are as follows:

  • Buy from known chains such as Holland & Barrets or Supermarkets
  • Buy recognized brands of products
  • Read reviews of the product online
  • Only buy products that are still vacuum packed
  • Only buy products that have their ingredients listed
  • Research the ingredients and come to your own conclusions
  • Ask your doctor before starting any new course of medication
  • Speak to the shopping assistants and ask them what’s in the products, how they work and where they obtained them from

Taking these precautions is not only important for your own health, but for that of your friends and family. Twelve of those found with high levels of mercury in their blood were found not to use the skin creams themselves, but had been exposed to it from traces of the heavy metal found on the hands of others. One of the victims was an 8 month old baby.

Taking all these precautions is also important. While the recent case of mercury poisoning was due to illegal skin cream, some more ‘legitimate’ seeming brands that have since been banned might still be found in lightly-regulated markets such as ‘Jiaoli’ and ‘Hua Ma ABC.

Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning

If you suspect you may have used such a health product then look out for signs of poisoning. These include:

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Parasthesia
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Skin discoloration on the cheeks, fingertips and toes
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Shedding of skin
  • Loss of hair, teeth and nails
  • Rashes
  • Weakness
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Alterations in personality
  • Insomnia

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Margrit Bradley

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