A woman in northern California was left in a semi-comatose state after using a skin-care cream she had ordered from Mexico that had been apparently tainted with a dangerous ingredient. According to Sacramento County Public Health, the woman fell ill in late June and had been exposed to methylmercury, a poisonous form of mercury that could cause brain and nervous system damage.
Officials said it is the first reported case of methylmercury poisoning of this kind linked to a skin-care cream in the U.S., and urged consumers to stop using similar skin creams imported from Mexico “due to risk of contamination with methylmercury.”
The woman, who Fox40.com reports is 47 years old, had allegedly been buying Pond’s Rejuveness cream from Jalisco, Mexico, for 12 years. The item, which is available for purchase in the U.S., claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles within two weeks. Her son, identified as Jay, told the outlet that his mother knew something was added to the cream before it was shipped, but that she hadn’t had issues before.
“It’s really hard, you know, pretty much just knowing who my mom is… who she… her personality,” said Jay, one of the woman’s five children. “She’s a very active woman, you know, early in the morning, get up, do her morning exercises, walks with her dog.”
Jay told the news outlet that his mother is currently bedbound and isn’t speaking.
“You know, she doesn’t speak and we’re not really sure if she’s fully focused looking at us and stuff,” he told the news outlet. “She can’t get up, stand, walk or none of that. She’s just kind of bedbound right now.”
Sacramento County Public Health said it is working closely with the state’s health department to test similar creams in the Sacramento area for methylmercury, which can be especially dangerous for children, pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.
Signs and symptoms of potential poisoning can include difficulty concentrating, memory loss, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, weight loss or tremors. In children, symptoms may present as pink hands and feet, flaky skin, excessive saliva or thirst, irritability, poor appetite, poor muscle tone, high blood pressure or rash.
It’s not the first time health officials in the state have seen an adverse reaction to homemade or tainted skin creams either, with over 60 cases linked to such substances over the last nine years.
In previous cases, the health department found products to contain less toxic forms of mercury.