A WOMAN was left in a coma after being poisoned by her Pond’s face cream.
The 47-year-old woman, from California, US, bought the moisturiser which had been imported from Mexico.
But it turned out the cream – used as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles – was contaminated with methylmercury, a substance highly toxic to humans.
The chemical is known to cause damage to the nervous system, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.
It can also lead to developmental abnormalities and cerebral palsy among children born to poisoned women.
Health officials have described it as the first poisoning case of its kind linked to a skin cream in the United States.
A statement from Sacramento County Public Health said: “The woman obtained the skin cream through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico.
“The mercury was not added by the Pond’s manufacturer, but by a third party after purchase.”
The unnamed woman arrived at A&E with numbness in her hands and face, trouble walking and slurred speech, health officials told KCRA.
Her condition deteriorated over several weeks and although she was initially able to respond to verbal commands, she then became semi-comatose.
She has been in hospital since July, her son confirmed.
Stop using imported creams
Public health officer Dr Olivia Kasirye said: “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.
“Methylmercury is extremely dangerous to adults and children.”
The woman’s son told local media that doctors began testing her cosmetic products.
“When they got to the face cream is when they noticed it had a very high level of mercury,” he told the KCRA.
Upon entering the nervous system, methylmercury can cause severe illness, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.
What is methylmercury poisoning?
Methylmercury is a type of mercury – a metal that is liquid at room temperature.
If it gets into the human body it can cause poisoning and lead to brain and nervous system damage.
How bad the damage is depends on how much poison gets into the body.
It tends to be caused by eating meat from animals that ate grain treated with the form of mercury, or fish from contaminated water.
The chemical is used in fluorescent lights, batteries, and polyvinyl chloride and is a common pollutant.
Many of the symptoms of mercury poisoning are similar to symptoms of cerebral palsy. In fact, methylmercury is thought to cause a form of cerebral palsy.
Unborn babies and infants are more sensitive to its effects sowomen who are pregnant, or may become pregnant, and nursing mothers are advised to avoid fish that may contain unsafe levels of methylmercury.
This includes swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish. Infants should not eat these fish, either. No one should eat any of these fish caught by friends and family, according to the FDA.
Source: Medline Plus
Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, memory loss, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and weight loss.
Children with prolonged exposure can experience pink hands and feet, skin flaking, excessive saliva, gum disease and high blood pressure, among other symptoms.
Over the past nine years in California, more than 60 poisonings have been linked to foreign brand, unlabelled, and/or homemade skin creams containing mercurous chloride or calomel — the less hazardous form of mercury, officials said.
A Pond’s spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE that it does not use mercury in its products.
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They added: “We take this matter very seriously and work closely with all authorised retailers to be sure products remain intact and safe for use from shipment to shelf.
“Illegitimate sales, product tampering and reselling are beauty industry issues that deserve close attention and consumer awareness. The product in question is not sold in the US.
“We are concerned about the woman who had this experience and are working with authorities to investigate the matter. “
A version of this article appeared on NY Post and has been republished with permission
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