Skin Products Containing Mercury: Could You be At Risk?

Merely Me Health Guide
  • This past week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers that certain foreign-made skin lighteners, anti-aging creams, and acne products may contain mercury. Although mercury is banned in the U.S. as an ingredient in cosmetics, other countries may not have such stringent rules. These mercury laden products come into the U.S. illegally are sold either online or in neighborhood shops in Latino, Asian, African American, or Middle Eastern communities. The FDA is warning consumers to check cosmetic products identified on their website as containing mercury.


    The states where these dangerous cosmetics have been found so far include: Virginia, Maryland, New York, Minnesota, Texas, California, and Illinois.

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    The FDA warns to check the ingredients of your skin care products and to refrain from using any product which is said to contain the following ingredients: Mercurous chloride, calomel. mercuric, mercurio or mercury. It is also strongly suggested to steer clear of any cosmetic products that do not list their ingredients.


    If you suspect that you have used a skin product containing mercury wash the affected areas of skin with soap and water and call your doctor immediately for medical guidance. In addition you should also call the National Poison Center  (1-800-222-1222) which is available 24 hours a day. It is also recommended that you seal the remaining product in a plastic bag or other durable container and contact your local environmental protection agency for how to dispose of the toxic substance properly.


    Mercury poisoning is very dangerous for all individuals but particularly children and infants. It can cause neurological problems, damage to the kidneys and extreme cases, death. It can also affect the brain development of unborn children who are exposed through their mother. The CDC reports that fetuses exposed to mercury may later develop brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, or seizures.


    Mercury can accumulate in the body and so the use of such tainted skin care products over time can eventually lead to toxic levels. Even limited exposure to mercury can, in some instances, result in medical and mental symptoms.


    The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) identifies the following as possible symptoms of mercury exposure:


    • Nausea

    • Vomiting

    • Diarrhea

    • High blood pressure

    • Increase in heart rate

    • Skin rashes

    • Eye irritation


    Other symptoms may include neurological problems such as irritability, tremors, memory problems and changes in hearing and vision. To see what these mercury laden products look like please refer to the FDA website where they have visuals of the cosmetic containers. 


    For more information on cosmetic safety please refer to the following Health Central articles and resources:


    Could Chemicals in Cosmetics be Harmful to Teens?

    Nanotechnology and Cosmetics


    Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

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Published On: March 11, 2012