A 47-year-old Sacramento woman was poisoned by a skin-lightening cream, which rendered her comatose. According to a CNN news report, this is the first case of methylmercury poisoning linked to a skin cream in the United States. In July, the woman reportedly visited a doctor for an odd pricking sensation and arm weakness.
Two weeks later, she returned with blurry vision and slurred speech and was admitted to an area hospital. Her condition further deteriorated. Her body contained abnormally high levels of methylmercury, a highly toxic substance that can cause permanent nervous system damage. A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the woman’s injuries are likely permanent.
Dubious Toxic Creams
The woman’s family told health officials that she used the skin-lightening cream – Pond’s Rejuveness — from Mexico twice daily for the past seven years. The cream, officials said, had been tainted with methylmercury after it was manufactured. Officials tested the cream and found it contained 12,000 parts per million of methylmercury, a little over 1.2%. It is illegal in the United States to sell skin creams that contain more than 1 ppm mercury.
Experts say most harmful skin-lightening creams are intentionally tainted with inorganic mercury. However, in this case, the woman’s cream contained organic mercury, which is far more toxic. Once symptoms of central nervous system damage begin, it worsens very quickly despite the removal of any further exposure. The woman was unable to speak or care for herself and continued to rely on a feeding tube for nutrition.
The California Department of Public Health reports that more than 60 poisonings have been statewide over the last decade linked to homemade or unlabeled skin creams, even though all contained a less toxic form of mercury. Most of these tainted creams were bought on the street by family or friends or from Mexico. These dubious products are often packaged in plastic containers without labels of handmade labels. They are typically advertised as being able to remove spots, wrinkles and blemishes.
Protect Yourself from Dangerous Products
Health officials caution the public to avoid creams without foil or clear labels. Consumers should check for protective foil under the lids of skin creams, indicating that they haven’t been tampered with. Buy these products from well-known retailers and avoid those that don’t have labels or appear to have homemade labels.
If you have adverse reactions as a result of using any product, it would be in your best interest to get prompt medical attention and contact an experienced product defect lawyer who can advise you regarding your legal rights and options.