Health & Medicine

Sacramento woman is semi-comatose after using altered Mexican skin cream, county says

This Pond’s skin cream was purchased at a pharmacy in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 2019, where it was adulterated with mercury according to the California Department of Public Health.
This Pond’s skin cream was purchased at a pharmacy in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 2019, where it was adulterated with mercury according to the California Department of Public Health. California Department of Public Health

A Sacramento woman has been hospitalized for mercury poisoning and is in a “semi-comatose state” after using an altered skin cream imported from Mexico, prompting the county health department to issue a warning to the community Tuesday.

The unidentified woman reportedly obtained a container of Pond’s anti-wrinkle skin cream “through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico,” Sacramento County said in a news release. The mercury contained in the cream “was not added by the Pond’s manufacturer, but by a third party after purchase.”

The county is working with the state public health department to test similar creams throughout the Sacramento area for mercury, the news release said.

“Sacramento County Public Health urges the community to immediately stop using similar skin creams imported from Mexico due to the risk of contamination with methylmercury,” Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the county public health officer, said in a statement.

The methlymercury poisoning case in connection with the skin cream is the first of its kind in the United States, according to the Sacramento County Public Health Department.

Methylmercury can cause severe illness, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include memory loss, depression, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, weight loss, fatigue and tremors.

Methylmercury is a highly toxic form of mercury. Across California, there have been 60 cases of poisonings linked to “foreign brand, unlabeled, and/or homemade skin creams” that contained less toxic forms of mercury known as mercurous chloride or calomel, the county said.

Anyone using skin creams imported from Mexico is urged to stop using the cream immediately and go to the doctor to get their blood and urine tested for mercury, the news release advises.

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
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