Health officials say the Pond's-labeled product was tainted with methylmercury.

By Julia Guerra
September 12, 2019
Female hand holding moisturizer in hand, horiztonal
Credit: simarik/Getty Images

Mercury poisoning is usually associated with sushi and other kinds of seafood. But a 47-year-old woman in California was recently hospitalized after being exposed to methylmercury in a skin-care product, according to a report from Sacramento County Public Health officials.

The unidentified woman, who is now in a "semi-comatose state," went to the hospital in July with symptoms like slurred speech, numbness in her hands and face, and trouble walking after using a jar of Pond's Rejuveness Anti-Aging Face Cream that had been imported from Mexico through an "informal network," NBC News reports.

The woman's blood test showed extremely high levels of mercury, which led doctors to test her cosmetics and discover methylmercury in the Pond's-labeled product. The skin cream in question was not contaminated by Pond's manufacturers but is believed to have been tainted by a third party, according to the Sacramento County Public Health report. Pond's was not readily available for comment by the time of publication.

Methylmercury is defined by the EPA as a "highly toxic organic compound." In large quantities, it can cause serious health effects, such as loss of vision, "pins and needles" in the hands, feet, and around the mouth, lack of coordination, impairment of speech, hearing, and/or walking, as well as muscle weakness.

In the Sacramento woman's case, it was a week before doctors officially diagnosed her with mercury poisoning. At that point, she'd been experiencing slurred speech and loss of motor function; now she is completely bedbound and not speaking, her son, Jay, told FOX40. (Related: Costa Rica Issued a Health Alert About Alcohol Tainted with Toxic Methanol Levels)

Apparently, the woman had not only been ordering the Pond's-labeled product via this "informal network" for the past 12 years, but she was also aware that "something was added to the cream before it was shipped," Jay explained. However, this is the first time she experienced any health issues related to the skin-care cream, he added.

"It's really hard, you know, pretty much just knowing who my mom is … who she ... her personality," Jay told FOX40. "She's a very active woman, you know, early in the morning, get up, do her morning exercises, walks with her dog."

Although this is the first case of mercury found in a skin-care product reported in the US, Sacramento County Public Health Officer, Olivia Kasirye, M.D. issued a warning to the community to stop buying and using creams imported from Mexico until further notice.

At this time, Sacramento County Public Health is working alongside the California Department of Public Health to test similar products in the area for traces of methylmercury, according to health officials. Anyone who has purchased a skin-care product from Mexico is encouraged to stop using it immediately, have the product examined by a doctor, and be tested for mercury in their blood and urine.