September 1, 2011
The Texas Department of State Health Services is warning the public that a number of mercury poisoning cases in South Texas appear to be linked to the use of Crema Aguamary, a cosmetic produced in Mexico and not approved for use in the United States.
Healthcare providers in South Texas have reported at least 18 patients who tested positive for elevated levels of mercury in their blood. Additionally, DSHS has tested 16 samples of Crema Aguamary products obtained from individuals in Texas. All had elevated levels of mercury, some hundreds of thousands of times higher than permitted in the United States. Samples of face cream contained mercury levels ranging from 56,000 to 131,000 parts per million (ppm), and samples of a cream labeled for use around the eyes tested from 240 to 6,700 ppm of mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows only trace amounts of mercury less than 1 ppm in cosmetics.
Products with the highest level of mercury contamination appear noticeably gray in color. Others are lighter gray or cream colored but still may contain dangerous levels of mercury. It is unclear at this point whether the contamination is happening where the product is produced or at some other point before it gets to consumers.
DSHS does not have evidence that contaminated products are being sold commercially in Texas. It appears that individuals are purchasing the products in Mexico and bringing them across the border. Crema Aguamary products may also be available for purchase online.
Products containing mercury are a particular concern for pregnant women and nursing mothers because mercury can be passed on to children. Two of the cases with high blood mercury levels are infants whose mothers used Crema Aguamary products while they were pregnant.
High exposures to the type of mercury found in these products can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, muscle aches and weakness, skin rashes, sores in the mouth, mood changes, memory loss, high blood pressure and weight loss.
People who believe they may have been exposed to mercury through Crema Aguamary products should contact their healthcare provider or the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222. People who have the product in their home should dispose of the closed containers at a household hazardous waste facility. If there is no facility available in their community, the product may be tightly closed, bagged and discarded with household garbage.
A photo of two product samples that tested positive for mercury is available at www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/Crema-Aguamary-Photo.aspx.
Q & A for Mercury Poisoning Cluster Associated with Use of Aguamary Creams
(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-776-7753)
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