People should avoid using skin creams in unlabeled or hand-labeled containers from Mexico following reports of mercury poisoning associated with the products, the state’s health department warned Thursday.
The creams are used for lightening skin, for fading freckles, blemishes and age spots, and for treating acne, the state Department of Public Health said in a news release. They come in containers without labels or with hand-made labels.
Some creams are light in color and turn dark gray/green after prolonged exposure to light. Some of them have contained more than 200,000 times the legal limit of mercury. Over the past four year, at least 60 people in California have been affected by the use of these creams. They include children and babies who became sick from contact with mercury contamination in their homes or through direct contact with family members who used the products.
Children and pregnant women are especially sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury, the health department said. Common signs of mercury poisoning in adults include irritability or depression, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, shaking or weakness, and tingling or numbness in hands, feet or around the mouth. In children, common signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include irritability, anorexia, sleeplessness, poor muscle tone or weakness, leg cramps, hypertension, rash, excessive salivation or thirst, peeling skin, pink hands and feet, and gingivitis.
For free medical advice in English or Spanish, call California Poison Control at (800) 222-1222. More information about mercury poisoning from homemade skin creams is available on the CDPH website.