The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued a warning concerning mercury in skin lightener and anti-aging products, it said. The agency notified healthcare professionals and warned consumers not to use skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps, or lotions that might contain mercury.
These products are marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes, and wrinkles, said the FDA, which noted that teens might use these products as acne treatments. According to the FDA, these types of cosmetic products, containing the toxic metal, mercury, have been found in no less than seven states.
The dangerous cosmetic products are manufactured abroad and sold illegally in the United States and can often be found in shops in Latino, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern neighborhoods, and online. Consumers may also have purchased these products in another country and brought them back to the U.S. for personal use.
Investigations conducted in the past few years by the FDA and state health officials have turned up more than 35 products that contain unacceptable levels of mercury.
Consumers are advised to check the label of any skin lightening, anti-aging or other skin product used. If there is no label or if no ingredients are listed, do not use the product. If “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury,” are listed on the label, stop using the product immediately.
Consumers who suspect they have used a product with mercury, should stop using it immediately and thoroughly wash their hands and any other body parts that have come in contact with the product; contact a health care professional or a medical care clinic for advice. Healthcare professionals and patients are urged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.
We previously wrote that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a warning against using skin-lightening creams that could contain dangerous levels of mercury. The EPA pointed to investigations of some imported cosmetics that were conducted by the Chicago Tribune as well as New York City, California, and Virginia health officials. Those probes revealed high mercury levels in a number of creams manufactured overseas.
The Tribune investigation looked at 50 skin-lightening products; five made in Asia contained high mercury levels and were available in the Chicago area. We also previously wrote that another Tribune investigation turned up six creams with high levels of mercury that were made in Lebanon, China, India, Pakistan, and Taiwan.
The EPA also explained that mercury or mercury salts may be used as an active ingredient in skin-lightening products touted to lighten skin or remove spots.
Mercury, which blocks melanin production, is banned in skin-bleaching or -lightening creams. Melanin gives skin its pigmentation and mercury can be quickly absorbed by the skin, leading to significantly dangerous health problems.
Mercury can also accumulate in the body over time, making diseases and disorders potentially linked to one’s exposure, difficult to diagnose. The EPA has said that high mercury levels can damage major organs as well as the immune system, especially in the developing fetus. Mercury can cause neurological damage and damage to the kidneys and brain and can cause skin rash and vision problems and mercury poisoning can cause brain damage and developmental delays in children and the unborn developing fetus.