A Sacramento woman is currently in the hospital in a semi-comatose state after using a Pond’s-labeled skin cream tainted with methylmercury. This is the first reported case of methylmercury poisoning of this type linked to a skin cream in the United States. The woman obtained the skin cream through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico. This type of cream is used by consumers as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles. The mercury was not added by the Pond’s manufacturer, but by a third party after purchase.
Unilever Corporation Pond’s products purchased at chain stores, such as Walmart, CVS, Dollar Store, etc. – both in Mexico and the USA are safe to use as long as they have the protective foil seal under the lid that has not been damaged. For product/distribution information, contact the Unilever Customer Engagement Center at (800) 909-9493.
“Sacramento County Public Health
urges the community to immediately stop using similar, altered skin creams imported from Mexico due to the risk of contamination with methylmercury,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. “Methylmercury is extremely dangerous to adults and children.”
Sacramento County Public Health is working closely with the California Department of Public Health to test similar creams in the Sacramento-area for methylmercury. Methylmercury can enter the nervous system and can cause severe illness among household contacts, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children. Signs and symptoms include the following:
General Signs and Symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating, memory loss
- Nervousness, irritability, anxiety
- Depression, insomnia
- Weight loss, fatigue
- Tremors, numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips
Children with prolonged exposure
- Pink hands and feet
- Skin flaking
- Excessive saliva or thirst, gum disease
- Irritability, poor appetite
- Poor muscle tone, leg cramps
- High blood pressure, rash
In California, over the last nine years, there have been over 60 poisonings linked to foreign brand, unlabeled, and/or homemade skin creams that contained the less toxic form of mercury, mercurous chloride or calomel.
For those who use altered skin creams imported from Mexico:
- Stop using them immediately
- Put the cream in a closed Ziploc bag and bring to your doctor
- Go to the doctor and get tested for mercury in your blood and urine
- Contact CDPH at (510) 981-4354 or AskEHIB@cdph.ca.gov. For free medical advice in English or other languages, call California Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222