February 9, 2012

Several SF Bay Area PSR chapter members and Steering Committee member Dr. Gina Solomon were recently involved in an investigation of mercury exposures in California and other states. The investigation was triggered by the discovery that a local family was mercury poisoned by a skin cream imported from Mexico. These creams are sold to lighten the skin and reduce age spots and acne, but they are illegal in the United States and can cause serious health effects, especially in children. The investigation eventually spread to Virginia, where additional cases were uncovered. The investigation was a collaborative effort with the California Department of Public Health, Alameda County Health Department, faculty at the UCSF Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and others. Health care providers in California should be aware that patients can be mercury-poisoned from use of imported skin care products, and should screen for this possibility in their patients. Mercury causes subtle neurological symptoms including fatigue, difficulty with memory and concentration, and peripheral neuropathy. Infants exposed in utero can have serious delays in neurodevelopment.

Click here to read the write-up in MMWR
Click here to read and print the California Health Alert in English and Spanish