FDA investigating skin cream with mercury

Associated Press / May 29, 2010

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RICHMOND — State and federal officials are investigating cases of possible mercury exposure linked to a homemade cream from Mexico that claims to lighten the skin, fade freckles, and treat acne.

The US Food and Drug Administration was recently made aware of the issue and is conducting investigations in several states, said spokesman Ira Allen. He would not say which states are included.

“We’re very interested in pursuing cases of products that harm people, particularly with mercury, which is especially harmful to children,’’ Allen said. “Any time we get intelligence on something like this, we act on it.’’

Historically, mercury has been used in a number of medicinal products including skin-lightening creams, but has been banned from almost all regulated and over-the-counter medications in the United States because it’s toxic.

The federal agency had issued import alerts in the mid-1990s regarding the cosmetic products from Mexico and the Dominican Republic, which bars the import of the products and prompts authorities to seize products sent through US ports of entry, Allen said.