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Mercury in Skin Care Products Prompt FDA Safety Alert

Aug 5, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a safety warning concerning the dangers of using skin care products containing mercury. Exposure to mercury may develop into serious health problems such as mercury poisoning and is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, babies, and young children whose brains are still forming.

Products that claim to remove age spots, freckles, and wrinkles are marketed as "skin-lightening" or "anti-aging" may contain mercury. These products are also touted as a remedy for blemishes and acne and may be marketed to teens.

Consumers are advised by the FDA to check all skin care product labels and to immediately stop using any products with the words "mercurous choloride," "calomel," "mercuric," "mercurio," or "mercury." If there is no ingredient list or product label, it is preferable to err on the side of caution and not use the product. Federal law requires ingredients to be listed on all cosmetic and non-prescription drug product labels.

Mercury toxicity and its dangers are not limited to the individual using a product containing mercury, but may have a negative effect on others coming into contact with that person. Mercury toxicity can occur through breathing mercury vapors or absorbing mercury through the skin after touching someone who uses a product containing mercury. Even a towel or a piece of clothing exposed to mercury may have negative repercussions.

Products containing these ingredients are often made outside the United States, and may be sold illegally in shops, on social media, through mobile apps, and online.

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