Published On: Thu, Sep 29th, 2011

Mexican beauty cream linked to Mercury poisoning in El Paso

A Mexican beauty cream that promises to rid users of wrinkles and skin discoloration may actually be deadly, local health officials warned Monday.

Officials issued the warning on the heels of six mercury poisoning cases reported in El Paso by people using Crema Antiedad y Desmanchadora, an anti-aging cream nearly identical to another cream, Crema Aguamary, which may be responsible for 44 cases of mercury poisoning in Texas and is not approved for use in the United States.

Officials with the El Paso Department of Public Health said the Food and Drug Administration limits mercury content in such products to one part per million, but the creams imported from Mexico have been shown to have up to 130,000 parts per million.

Mercury works similar to an expensive chemical peel at a cheaper price, but the mercury can case severe health problems such as memory loss, severe pains or cramps, renal failure and possibly death, Saldivar said.

“The mercury burns the skin and forces the skin to regenerate,” said Armando Saldivar, spokesman for the El Paso Department of Public Health.

Health officials in El Paso said the popular creams, which range in color from gray to off-white, can be obtained in Mexico or over the Internet.

Saldivar said although El Paso’s proximity to Mexico may be a contributing factor to the cream’s popularity, it’s not the only factor given its manufacturers’ presence on the Internet and social networking sites like Facebook. Several cases have been reported in East Texas as well.

“Our proximity to Mexico would be a factor in us having six cases, but I hesistate to say it’s completely because we’re on the border,” Saldivar said. “The fact that it’s so accessible is probably a bigger factor.”

Crema Aguamary is produced in Culiacán, Sinaloa and costs 900 pesos, or about $65, for a three-month supply. A website for the cream’s manufacturer was down Monday.

One woman, who declined to be identified, said she paid $100 for a three-month supply of Crema Aguamary. She said she will have to throw away about $50 worth of the product, which she has been using for almost two months to treat her melasma, or dark skin discoloration.

“I have to say that it does work, but I’d rather have the melasma than poison my system,” the woman said.

People who have jars of the cream are being asked to wrap them in plastic and throw them with the household garbage, or take them to a hazardous waste facility, Saldivar said.

Those who have used the cream are also asked to discontinue use immediately and be tested for blood and/or urine mercury.

Information on treatment recommendations may be obtained by calling the Texas Poison Control Network at   800-222-1222 .

Source: El Paso Times

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