State and federal health officials continue to crack down on illegally imported face creams that contain mercury and may harm not only the user, but others-particularly children-who come into contact with them.
The latest warning about the products came Tuesday, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it had found 35 suspicious products from the brands Diana, Stillman’s, Lusco and Crema Aguamary. The brands are made abroad and sold illegally in the U.S., typically in ethnic communities or on the Internet, primarily targeting Latino, African-American, Middle Eastern and Asian consumers.
In February, California health officials found mercury in skin-lightening products that were manufactured in Mexico and were working undercover in the San Francisco Bay Area to trace the unlabeled, mercury-laced face creams that promise to fight wrinkles and cure acne as well as lighten the skin. The products have been found throughout the country in New York, California, Illinois, Texas and Virginia.
When absorbed in the skin, mercury blocks melanin, which gives the skin its pigment. However, mercury can wreak havoc on the kidneys, nervous system and even the personality. One woman in Alameda, CA, used the product twice a day for three years and had 100 times the safe limit of mercury in her blood. Her four-year-old child had 25 times the safe limit. Inorganic mercury can be absorbed through the skin and excreted through breast milk.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, mercury poisoning symptoms include vision problems, loss of coordination and problems with speaking, walking and hearing. Tremors and tingling of the hands and feet may also occur as well as depression and memory problems.
FDA-approved cosmetics and beauty products must include a label that lists ingredients in English. If you have purchased unlabeled products, or products labeled in a language other than English, or those that list ingredients like “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio” or “mercury,” you should throw the product away in a sealed, leak-proof container, the FDA suggests.
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