Health officials in Northern California issued a warning on Tuesday after a tainted skin cream imported from Mexico left a Sacramento woman in a semi-comatose state.
The Pond’s-labeled skin cream was found to have been contaminated with methylmercury, a hazardous substance that can cause severe illness and is “extremely dangerous to adults and children,” according to a news release on Sacramento County’s website.
The woman obtained the cream — which is used as a skin lightener, and to get rid of spots and wrinkles — through an informal network that imports the product from Mexico, the release stated.
Health officials emphasized the mercury was not added by the manufacturer, but by another party after it was purchased.
The woman’s illness marks the first reported case of mercury poisoning tied to skin cream in the U.S., according to the county.
“Sacramento County Public Health urges the community to immediately stop using similar skin creams imported from Mexico due to the risk of contamination with methylmercury,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the county’s public health officer.
The California Department of Public Health is working closely with the county to test similar creams in the area for methylmercury.
In the meantime, anyone who uses a skin cream from Mexico is urged to stop using it immediately. Instead, consumers should put the product in a closed Ziploc bag, bring it to their doctor, and have a blood and urine test, according to the county.
Symptoms of methylmercury poisoning include headaches, fatigue, weight loss, and numbness or tingling in the hands, feet or around the lips.
Over the past nine years, there have been over 60 poisonings in the state linked to unlabeled, homemade or foreign brand skin creams that contained calomel or mercurous chloride, a less toxic form of mercury, according to the release.
More information can be found on the Sacramento County Department of Health Service’s website.