Skin products tainted with mercury
March 6th, 2012
04:59 PM ET

Skin products tainted with mercury

The Food and Drug Administration is cautioning consumers that skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps and lotions contaminated with mercury have been found in at least 7 states.

The products are made abroad and sold in the United States as skin lighteners and anti-aging creams. According to Gary Coody, national health fraud coordinator in the FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs, some of the products are being sold online as well as in Latino, African, Asian or Middle Eastern neighborhoods. They are touted as products that can remove age spots, freckles, wrinkles and other blemishes. Some may be used by teenagers for acne.

"If you have a product that matches these descriptions, stop using it immediately" Coody said.

"Even though these products are promoted as cosmetics, they also may be unapproved new drugs under the law," said Dr. Linda Katz, director FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors. "FDA does not allow mercury in drugs or in cosmetics, except under very specific conditions, which these products do not meet."

Mercury is highly toxic and exposure at high levels can cause damage to the brain and kidneys according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences," says Dr, Charles Lee, a senior medical advisor at the FDA. "It can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children."

Even short-term exposure, the CDC says, can cause lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation.

So far Texas, California, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois and New York have all reported cases of elevated mercury levels in skin care products. The Agency says consumers should check product labels for mercurous chloride, calomel. mercuric, mercurio or mercury. If those ingredients appear on the label, stop use immediately. Federal law requires ingredients be listed on all drugs or cosmetics. If there is no label or list of ingredients, or if the label is not in English, do not use the product.

According to the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, signs of mercury poisoning include irritability, tremors, memory problems, vision or hearing impairment, depression and numbness and tingling around the mouth or in the hands and feet.

The FDA is asking anyone who suspects a product they have been using is contaminated stop using it immediately and contact a doctor..

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    and you wonder why i refuse to use sunscreens hair conditioners styling gels hairspray or even deodorant?soap shampoo toothpaste and mouthwash are the only hygiene products needed.

    March 7, 2012 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Here we go. I did a little digging and found a nice link to at least some of the products being talked about. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm294849.htm

      March 8, 2012 at 00:25 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Investigations in the past few years by FDA and state health officials have turned up more than 35 products that contain unacceptable levels of mercury. FDA continues to add mercury-containing skin products to its import alerts. Also here are 2 links to the FDA 1) cosmetics and 2)skin care Imports alert pages that cover the mercury issue.
      1) http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/industry_53.html
      2) http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_137.html
      Here is a partial list, please check for yourself in case there are more: Santa Cream Skin Care Prep, Santa Cream Patent Medicines, Miss Key Whitening Cream, Laboratorios Key C Por A Crema Bianqueadora Miss Key, Leivon Cosmetics Dermaline Cream, Ets Diana De Beaute Creme Diana/Eliminates Freckles, Aguaruto Cosmetics/Gloria Maricela Castro Crema Aquamary, Laboratories Vido Natural S.A de C.V. Manning Beauty Cream/Manning Cream de Belleza.

      March 8, 2012 at 00:42 | Report abuse |
    • makip

      .......if you're white.
      My hair texture HIGHLY needs conditioner

      March 24, 2017 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
  2. hamsta

    oh yeah dont forget toilet paper.definitely need that.

    March 7, 2012 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Anynomous

    If your going to post a story like this you could be a little more responsible and post the names of the products this was actually found contaminated so we can avoid specific ones???

    With literally hundreds of thousands of products if not millions on the market all this article does is promote fear without giving much real consumer information that is useful!

    March 7, 2012 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • christy

      I agree with anynomous like research apples, toothpaste, flu shots etc.

      March 7, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      I agree that they should post the names, but after reading the description of the products, it would seem that these are not your normal Walmart or drugstore bought items. They are "specialty" items bought online or in special "ethnic" stores. So, just stay away from the non-commercialized products, basically. (ie. those not made by "big name" brands)

      March 7, 2012 at 09:21 | Report abuse |
    • madisoncnn

      Hi, to address your question- The FDA has not released all the names of 35 products that tested for mercury. The FDA has said it wants to focus on the message of what to look for when you buy these products, not the names because most don’t even have English labeling. And there's the risk of putting out a few names & have folks who feel like their products aren't listed so there might not be any problems. Your frustration is understood, but that is the reasoning we have been provided. Thanks for reading.

      March 7, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      You're asking CNN to do more than reprint the press release. You want them to dig in a bit, do a little investigation, make a few calls. That's more than the popular media does these days.

      March 7, 2012 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie


      March 7, 2012 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I agree, this info is useless. Are they talking brand-named acne stuff? Sun tan lotion? What are they talking about ?!

      March 7, 2012 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
    • jun

      Most of these came from China. I have a blog post that lists the various skin whitening products tainted with high levels of mercury. Although these products were marketed in the Philippines, I believe that some of these are also being sold online. So I hope this will help disseminate the information. The testing was made by Ecowaste Coalition, an ngo.


      June 24, 2012 at 03:25 | Report abuse |
  4. Shon

    They should at least post the names of the products that have been found to contain mercury. Sheesh! That way we at least know what we should avoid. I use a product called Ambi made by Johnson & Johnson. It is supposed to get rid of dark spots. I'd like to know if this is a product that should be avoided. But the article leaves out any helpful information other than just don't use any of these products.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. axkick

    Check EWG's skin deep database if you want to know what your personal care products are tained....I mean made with. These type of products are not regulated by the FDA and contain all sorts of known carcinogens, toxins & chemicals. It's no wonder that people are getting sick.

    March 7, 2012 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • axkick


      BTW-its the major manufactures that are the worst.....not the oddball specialty items.

      March 7, 2012 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
  6. NWSD

    Cosmetic company: I would like to put mercury in my product.
    FDA: Absolutely not! Mercury is very toxic and can even kill you....it has serious health effects.
    Vaccine company: I would like to put mercury in my product.
    FDA: Sure, no problem!

    March 7, 2012 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RNP

      Sad . . . but very true!

      March 7, 2012 at 11:15 | Report abuse |
  7. Myto Senseworth

    It is a common practice to put mercury in your teeth but don't put it on your skin.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Miss Such-and-Such

      Mercury amalgamated with silver does not leach into your body at a rate that would affect you.

      March 7, 2012 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
    • Myto Senseworth

      ...and what rate would affect me be Miss Such-and-such? 1mg/year...1mg/day...

      March 7, 2012 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
  8. Miss Such-and-Such

    Globalism. Worst idea ever.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      Absolutely. "Globalization" is our new government and we have no rights. Who is the WTO anyway?!

      March 7, 2012 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  9. Voltairine

    Dear CNN, STOP CENSORING! I can understand, though not necessarily endorse, removing or otherwise not posting comments that are vulgar or abusive etc., but you are censoring relevant comments that you just don’t like! We should be able to comment on ALL articles and NO you should NOT pick and choose which ones you’ll “allow” to be posted or just remove them based on your own views! You are SUPPOSED to be JOURNALISTS and AGAINST this sort of thing!

    March 7, 2012 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      I'm amazed that wasn't censored for the word 'vulgar'. It mystifies me what their filters bar.

      March 7, 2012 at 20:28 | Report abuse |
  10. Samantha

    FDA recommends checking labels for "mercurous chloride," "calomel," mercuric," or "mercury.' Stop using immediately. Also, never use a product which doesn't include list of ingredients. Texas health officials found 131,000 times the allowable level of mercury in a face cream. We should all pay more attention to labels.

    March 7, 2012 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Myto Senseworth

    Fish is still the #1 source for mercury. So don't get fish against your skin. the FDA has not aproved fish except for use as food.

    March 7, 2012 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Myto Senseworth

    You can always get mercury from fluorescent bulbs.....You know they are safe. They are "green" products............not!

    March 7, 2012 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Myto Senseworth

    There is no mercury in Mercurochrome any longer. The FDA thinks there may be an a health issue. They will let the big pharma decide if it is safe to use...You know what they are going to say...."ban..ban...ban...buy our aproved drugs instead"

    March 7, 2012 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Myto Senseworth

    Avoid mercury at all costs !
    Don't eat fish, don't ever break a fluorescent bulb, don't go to the dentist, don't use cosmetics, don't get vaccinated, don't get near welding machines, don't burn coal.....etc.....

    March 7, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      Good point. It all collects over time, doesn't it? And I just dropped a fluorescent bulb in the closet where there is no ventilation, then sprayed it all over the air by vacuuming up the powder.... On top of my fillings, immunizations, contact lens solution, etc, etc, etc, Surely I broke a mercury thermometer when I was a kid. Probably even played with the mercury. Now my Adult Acne medicine is suspect.

      March 7, 2012 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
  15. Myto Senseworth

    Final post....fire the FDA and the horse they rode in on. They only protect the big drug companies..not the public.

    March 7, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Voltairine

    Wow, so CNN just refuses to post my comment, so I'll write it another way. WHO EXACTLY are these companies that made these mercury-laced products? Why was that information, which the CDC must know, disseminated with this article? I'll tell you why. This was done to protect those companies! Think about that for a moment. It is obviously more important to "our own" government to protect those companies than protect YOU from mercury poisoning and clearly the news media supports this as there is no mention whatsoever as to whether or not these even ASKED the CDC who those companies were, never-mind why they omitted that information! Well, let's see if these gets past the CNN censors...which they can and do delete for whatever reasons they want despite the transparent conflict of interest!

    March 7, 2012 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary Curie

      I agree with Voltairine. The names of the products and manufacturers are part of the public record of the FDA and should be published by CNN. If not readily available it could be FOIA'd. Are we to really look for "mercury" among the ingredients? I don't believe that's how the FDA came across this information. I assume some lab work was involved.

      March 7, 2012 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
  17. Soulcatcher

    It's a good thing they didn't say this about vaseline...


    March 7, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Skeptical Mom

    so, for the record, mercury in your skin cream is bad, but mercury in your flu shots and dental fillings is A-OK. good to know that FDA is so on top of things. i'm sure we'll all be super healthy now.

    March 7, 2012 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sandy

      It's the dose that makes the poison. A small amount annually isn't comparable to daily exposure, and that's assuming the composition is the same. (This is the same argument behind monitoring your consumption of fish known to contain mercury.)

      March 8, 2012 at 01:51 | Report abuse |
  19. Thinquer

    Can we have a list please? EWG website might have it.

    March 7, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. colorado

    CNN, maybe next time just write a sentence stating that as soon as a list comes out, CNN will post it immediately. It's the right thing to do instead of making people worry.

    March 7, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. here we go again

    derp derp post. Lol
    Who ever wrote this needs to get fired.
    Reminds of some ppl I know.. lol . Here is one story that some woman wanted her House hold goods move from one location to another. Ah not a big sents I work for a moving company. I sent her a form to fill out. The form ask for Address of Pick up point, address of second pick up point, and of course more information but wont go into it . She sent the form back and in that block it stated My Apartment (this is inchicago), the other block my Storage, and destination was NC. So, I replied to her back by email and she respond 5 days later with oh I am sorry I mean my boyfriends apartment. lol.. no joke and her boyfriend came to my office angry say we missed the pick up date. Showed him the paper work and email he was stunned. So, he did give us the address we needed. this is not the only story but thats all I am going to give you.

    March 7, 2012 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Minnie B

    Why want they tell anyone what the name of the products are? They could have put a list of the products on here so people would know exactly what to look out for. So why didn't they do that. It would have made since. Just saying!!!

    March 7, 2012 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. here we go again

    just email the FDA like i did about this post

    March 7, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Paul

    Also here is another link to the IMport alert page. This one is for the category "cosmetics" You may wnt to look up "skin care" as well.
    Tracking Skin Products Containing Mercury
    Investigations in the past few years by FDA and state health officials have turned up more than 35 products that contain unacceptable levels of mercury. FDA continues to add mercury-containing skin products to its import alerts

    March 8, 2012 at 00:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Brenda Beazley

    The names of these tainted products will NEVER be revealed. And if you ever try to contact EWG with a question or concern, they will NEVER respond to you. I know. I've tried.

    March 9, 2012 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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