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State health officials warn consumers of mercury in skin cream from Mexico

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The Texas Department of State Health Services is alerting consumers after a case of mercury poisoning was linked to a cosmetic purchased in Mexico. A Texas woman was hospitalized after a pharmacy in Mexico mixed face cream for her, apparently adding mercury to a name brand product. Laboratory testing showed the product contained 29,000 parts per million of inorganic mercury. U.S. regulations prohibit the sale of skin cream with more than 1 ppm of mercury.

Skin creams containing mercury may be available commercially or from individual sellers in Mexico and other countries. They claim to lighten the skin, treat acne, or fade freckles and age spots. In the past, DSHS has found mercury in cosmetics imported from Mexico and sold in Texas at flea markets or person to person.

To protect themselves, DSHS urges people only to purchase skin cream and similar cosmetics sealed in their original containers and sold by reputable retailers in the United States. If you think you have a product that may contain mercury, seal it in a plastic bag and discard it at a household hazardous waste facility.

Mercury can cause serious neurological symptoms like tremors, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, depression and anxiety. Other symptoms include headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue and numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips. Long-term exposure can result in damage to the nervous system, digestive tract and kidneys. Mercury can be passed from mother to child before birth or through breastmilk.

The Texas patient was hospitalized for about 10 days after experiencing complications of the treatment for mercury poisoning. She has been discharged and is expected to recover.

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