The beauty cream you’re using may contain some ugly ingredients. That’s the upshot of a new warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that many anti-aging products, cosmetics, skin lotions, and antiseptic soaps contain hidden mercury.
Jason Humbert of FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs says these products are usually marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes, and wrinkles. Adolescents may use these products as acne treatments.
Most are manufactured abroad and sold online or illegally in the United States, often in shops catering to the Latino, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern communities, Humbert said.
But it may not be readily apparent that they contain mercury because the labels can be misleading he added. If the ingredients list includes “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” the mercury’s in it — and you should stop using the product immediately, the FDA advises.
If the ingredients aren’t listed and there is no product label, that may be a sign that it contains mercury or is an illegal item that may pose a risk. In addition, drugs or cosmetics labeled in languages other than English are an indication that the product may be marketed illegally.
“Even though these products are often promoted as cosmetics, they also may be unapproved new drugs under the law,” said Dr. Linda Katz, director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors.
FDA does not allow mercury in drugs or in cosmetics, except under very specific conditions where there are no other safe and effective preservatives available, she added.
Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences, noted Dr. Arthur Simone, a senior medical advisor at FDA. Some people — including pregnant women, nursing babies, and young children — are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity. The toxin can harm babies’ developing brains and nervous systems.
“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,” Simone said.
In recent years, FDA and state health officials have cracked down on manufacturers of products that contain mercury, with numerous reported cases of poisonings in the U.S.
“Many of these products are coming into the country through illegal channels,” Humbert said. “That’s why it’s so important for consumers and sellers to know about the dangers of possible mercury poisoning associated with the use of these skin products.”
To protect yourself and your loved ones, the FDA advises:
- Check product labels for mercury or other ingredients that indicate they contain the toxin.
- If you have used such a product, or have a reaction you suspect may be caused by mercury, thoroughly wash your hands and other parts of your body that have come in contact with it.
- If you have questions about whether a product you use contains mercury, consult a healthcare professional or call the 24-hour U.S. Poison Center hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
- Before throwing out a product that may contain mercury, seal it in a plastic bag or leak-proof container. Check with your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for disposal instructions. Some communities have special collections or other options for disposing of hazardous household waste.
© 2017 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.