FDA links imported skin care and anti-aging products to mercury poisoning

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

FDA links imported skin care and anti-aging products to mercury poisoning

Related tags: Mercury, Fda

The US Food and Drug Administration is circulating a consumer update advising against the use of any beauty product formulated with mercury, which the organization doesn’t (for the most part) allow in cosmetics.

Yesterday the FDA updated its consumer-facing page about the dangers of mercury. The update explains that “the products are usually marketed as skin lighteners and anti-aging treatments that remove age spots, freckles, blemishes, and wrinkles,” ​and that, “adolescents may use these products as acne treatments.”

Global incident

The skin care and anti-aging cosmetics raising concern are often made and labeled oversees, according to the FDA. Irreputable business networks or unsuspecting global travelers then ship / bring them in to the States for sale or personal use.

“These products usually are manufactured abroad and sold illegally in the United States, often in shops catering to the Latino, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern communities,” ​says the FDA, in analysis attributed to Jason Humbert of the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs.

He notes that they are commonly “promoted online on social media sites and sold through mobile apps. Consumers may also have bought them in another country and brought them back to the U.S. for personal use.”

Barely legal                                                  

In this country, mercury is allowed in cosmetic and drug product formulations only when no other safe, effective preservative is available, which isn’t the case for the beauty items the FDA is alerting consumers about with its latest update.

“Even though these products are often promoted as cosmetics, they also may be unapproved new drugs under the law,”​ says Linda Katz, MD, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, in the update.

The Administration makes it clear online that in the US, sellers and distributors of skin lightening or whitening products formulated with mercury can be legally culpable. That is, “subject to enforcement action, including seizure of products, injunctions, and, in some situations, criminal prosecution.”

Quiet riot

The FDA’s update came with an alarming subject line for consumers who subscribe to the organization’s alerts: “Mercury Poisoning Linked to Skin Products.”

Yet, the consequences of using the products described are barely touched on. Consumers are reminded that “Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences,” ​and that individuals who are pregnant or nursing could pass the chemical to their fetus or infant.

The FDA does offer a bit of guidance to consumers about how to spot products that do or could very likely contain mercury. The Administration notes that on an ingredient list, any of these terms mean mercury: “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” and “mercurio.”

Beauty products without labels and those without labels in English are also suspect, according to the FDA update.

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