Skin bleaching creams made with mercury possibly fatal, U.S. health agency warns

The federal Food and Drug Administration has identified 35 mercury-tainted products sold as soaps, skin creams and lotion, mostly manufactured offshore and sold in Latino, Middle Eastern, African-American and Asian neighbourhoods in at least seven states.

“Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences,” says Dr. Charles Lee, a senior medical adviser at the FDA. “It can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children.”

“Mercury can vaporize and people breathe it in,” said FDA spokesperson Siobhan DeLancey. “That makes it particularly dangerous for infants and small children. They are likely to be picked up and held close to the face. Also, they are so young, and small, and the mercury will accumulate over a lifetime.”

“Sellers and distributors should not market these illegal products and may be subject to enforcement action, which could include seizure of the products and other legal sanctions,” said attorney Brad Pace, of the Heath Fraud and Consumer Outreach Branch within FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Extracts from a Toronto Star article (original) by Richard J. Brennan. Published 9 March 2012.

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