Mercury is a liquid metallic element. It exists naturally as a result of volcanic activity and eroding rocks, and also enters the atmosphere as a pollutant from coal-burning power plants. It is highly toxic to humans, and unfortunately, it may be hiding in your skin cream.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just come out with a new warning: individual beauty and skin care products, especially those that are shipped from overseas, may contain toxic levels of mercury. The offenders are typically products that promise to fight age spots, lighten skin, treat acne, or provide other skin-smoothing effects. So far, the FDA has found products that contain mercury in at least seven states, and in the past few years alone, more than 35 different products with high levels of the toxin have been discovered.
What are the Symptoms of Mercury Poisoning?
Mercury poisoning can result in mood swings, tremors, abnormal sensations, decreased cognitive functions, vision or hearing impairment, skin rashes, and much more. Young children and pregnant women are at a particularly high risk, as mercury is very damaging to the developing brain. Pregnant women who are using any exotic skin cream or beauty product that they are unsure of should immediately stop usage to avoid risking the health of their unborn child.
Is it Enough to Read the Ingredients?
The FDA warns that many of these products do not mention mercury anywhere on the label. Often, mercurial salts are used in these products, which can read on labels as calomel, cinnabar, or mercury chloride. If you see any such ingredients listed on a product you are using, stop using it immediately. However, don’t count on a blank label as a promise that the product is safe. Many countries do not have regulations regarding ingredient labeling, and unfortunately, many of these toxic products come from such countries.
What Are We to Do?
How can we avoid these products if we cannot determine which contain mercury and which do not? The answer is simple: stick to products that are manufactured within the United States or other developed nations that have laws and regulations regarding labeling and ingredients. Avoid products that do not clearly state the ingredients on the packaging. Stick to well-known brands and shop at reputable stores that are careful about which products they choose to sell.
What if I Already Used a Product That Contains Mercury?
If you suspect that one or more of your beauty products contain mercury, seal them in a plastic bag and call your local health department immediately. Whatever you do, do not throw the product in the garbage as this can cause mercury to leak out into the surrounding environment