Mercury exposure reported among users of skin-lightening creams

Consumer Reports News: January 19, 2012 04:53 PM

Mercury exposure has been reported among users of skin-lightening creams produced in Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

A two-state investigation led by the public health departments in California and Virginia collected information and urine specimens for members of a Mexican-American family and extended family in other households after coordinators of a 2010 health study found that family members participating in a health study and living in California had elevated blood mercury levels.

In all, 22 people in five households were found to have potential mercury exposure. The investigation also identified unlabeled skin-lightening creams with mercury content measured at 2 to 5.7 percent (by weight) as the likely source of exposure.

Users turned over their skin-lightening creams to the California Department of Public Health and Virginia Department of Health. Both health departments advised users and the public to stop using these creams and issued clinical health alerts notifying physicians about this potential cause of mercury toxicity, among other measures.

Mercury exposure can result in irreversible renal and central nervous system damage or death.

Mercury Exposure Among Household Users and Nonusers of Skin-Lightening Creams Produced in Mexico — California and Virginia, 2010 [CDC MMWR]

Maggie Shader

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