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Everything to Know About the Skin Cream That Gave a Woman Mercury Poisoning

In large doses, mercury is a substance that is highly toxic to humans, Medical News Today reports. Mercury poisoning can cause numbness, physical tremors, depression, mood changes, and anxiety, in the early stages, and can later develop (depending on age and exposure) into severe physical symptoms. These symptoms include muscle weakness, difficulty walking and breathing, nausea and vomiting, and a lack of motor skills. High levels of mercury in the blood can also have long-term effects and cause neurological damage, affect the reproductive system, and lead to an increased risk of heart problems.

Mercury poisoning is usually the result of eating food that contains mercury (for example, seafood that has been tainted with mercury). We do not, however, expect to get mercury poisoning from our face cream, and it comes as a surprise that there has been a case involving a woman who was left in a semi-comatose state after using a face cream that contained methylmercury (a highly toxic form of mercury).

The case made headlines after it was reported that a 47-year-old California woman was hospitalized for mercury poisoning. She had 2,630 micrograms of mercury per liter in her bloodstream, which is more than 500 times the safe amount. According to Los Angeles Times, she had purchased a face cream from a pharmacy in Jalisco, Mexico—although Washington Post notes that the woman’s son told CBS Sacramento that she knowingly purchased the altered product, which she used for years, and got it from “someone she knew.”

The unidentified woman was later admitted to the hospital after experiencing numbness in her hands and face, as well as slurred speech. Her symptoms progressively worsened. In trying to determine the cause of the poisoning, doctors tested her cosmetic products. “When they got to the face cream is when they noticed it had a very high level of mercury,” her son told KCRA in Sacramento. He also revealed that his mother had been in hospital since July.

The Ponds-labeled face cream was tainted with Methylmercury, but health officials told NBC News that the mercury was not added by the Ponds manufacturer, and it was a “third party after purchase” that was responsible. The statement also revealed that this type of cream is typically used as a “skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles.” Ponds told the news outlet that they do not use mercury in their products.

This is reportedly the first incident of methylmercury poisoning from face cream in the United States, but the case does highlight the risks of purchasing creams that are sold in cities through “informal networks.” Health officials are urging consumers to immediately discontinue use of similarly altered creams imported from Mexico and to be mindful of the products they buy, especially if they are not from reputable sellers.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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