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Mercury found in lotions and cosmetics, says FDA; products are often sold in ethnic neighborhoods and online


by Lindsay GoldwertNew York Daily News
March 7th, 2012

Women are being warned to stay away from beauty products that contain a toxic ingredient — mercury.

The ingredient has been found in skin-care products, soaps and cosmetics in stores that tend to cater to Latino, African-American, Asian and Middle Eastern communities.

The FDA has counted 35 potentially poisonous products, which include goods made by the brands Diana, Stillman’s, Lusco and Crema Aguamary, that are manufactured abroad and sold illegally in the U.S. They may claim to lighten skin, cure acne and reduce wrinkles.

Exposure to mercury can cause real bodily harm, say doctors.

“It can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children,” said Dr. Charles Lee, a senior medical adviser at the FDA.

Just inhaling the products can cause harm. Breathing mercury vapor can lead to nerve damage, according to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission.

Symptoms of mercury exposure include tremors, changes in vision or hearing and numbness in the hands and feet.

There also may be emotional damage including depression, irritability, sudden shyness and memory problems.

The FDA does not allow mercury in drugs or cosmetics, except under specific conditions, which these products do not meet.

Here are some ways to tell if your products contain mercury.

Check the label for “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio” or “mercury.” If you find any of those ingredients in your products, discard them immediately in a plastic bag or leak-proof container.

Since these items are brought in from outside the country, many have labels in other languages or have no labels at all.

The FDA requires that cosmetics and skin-care creams list their ingredients on the label.

Your best bet is to toss any products without labels or that do not list ingredients in English.

Such items have been found in cities all over the country, including New York, Virginia, California and Texas.

Sellers should examine their stock, because toxic goods can be seized and the business owners subject to legal sanctions by the FDA.