If you’re heading to the bodega, or convenience store, to pick up a skin lightening cream (or any other cream or soap based product, for that matter), check the label and learn more about mercury poisoning. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public about skin care products containing mercury.
Exposure to mercury can be toxic and damage certain body systems, particularly the brain and kidneys, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Don’t assume your cosmetics or non-prescription medical creams are safe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers mercury one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
Some groups are especially vulnerable to mercury poisoning. For example, pregnant women and babies may be particularly sensitive to mercury toxicity because of the harm it can do to the child’s developing brain and nervous system. Newborns who are nursing are also vulnerable because mercury is passed into breast milk.
“Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face,” says Arthur Simone, MD, a senior medical advisor at FDA.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include the following:
- weakness of the muscles
- mental disturbances
- impairment of speech, hearing, and eyesight
- impairment of coordinated movements such as walking
- “pins and needles” feeling in the hands, feet, and sometimes around the mouth
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