Mercury poisoning isn’t something you will hear about that often. In fact, it’s something that isn’t commonly treated anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
You’ll likely know all about mercury in some fish. Doctors recommend sticking to two portions of fish a week and watch out for eating shark, swordfish, and other similar fish because of high mercury levels, especially during pregnancy. But what about your skin care products?
Despite being a poisonous metal, did you know that mercury is often used in skin care products? The ingredients soak into your skin and will get straight into your bloodstream. While mercury poisoning isn’t as common as it used to be, it is still possible.
You can prevent it by following these top tips for avoiding mercury poisoning from your skin care products.
What Is Mercury Poisoning and What Are the Symptoms?
Before we get into the tips to avoid mercury poisoning, it’s worth knowing more about it.
Mercury is a dangerous metal. At room temperature, it is liquid and found in thermometers. When in the thermometers it is safe, although some companies are moving away from the use of the metal as much as possible. The body can’t get rid of mercury easily, but it is extremely easy to get in!
Even if you’re the only person using the mercury-included product, you put your whole family at risk. It can transfer between people and the vapors from the products will get around the house. Towels and clothing can also be contaminated. Children, babies, and fetuses are the most at risk of mercury poisoning.
The metal affects the whole nervous system. It causes the kidneys to shut down and will lead to a range of symptoms that can initially be missed. After all, these symptoms are linked to other conditions and can often be overlooked as “that time of the month” or due to naturally changing hormones.
Children won’t be able to explain some of the symptoms. It looks like they are lashing out or “going through a phase,” when they are suffering from poisoning that puts them at high risk of serious medical complications.
Mood swings, irritability, and nervousness are all common symptoms. You may have other mental health problems, including insomnia or further emotional changes. Depression and anxiety are also common, especially if you don’t understand the reason for your hormonal changes and can’t treat it.
Some of the physical symptoms include muscle tremors or twitching and weakness. You can feel like you’re coming down with a cold or the flu, which just doesn’t seem to go away.
Skin irritation is also common, especially when the mercury poisoning is from your skin care products. You’re putting the metal directly onto your skin and allowing it to absorb it. You’ll usually find that nothing works to repair the irritation, unlike with other rashes and itchiness.
Babies that suffer mercury poisoning can have impaired brain development. Pregnant women may also find their mental health is affected negatively, as they feel foggier.
The exact symptoms you get will depend on some things:
- The dose
- The way you get the dose
- The length of time you’ve been exposed
- Other health problems
- Your age
This means everyone in the house can end up suffering from different symptoms. Can you see how it can be so difficult to diagnose mercury poisoning? This is partially the reason why there are fewer patients compared to other health problems.
Avoid Products with Mercury
This sounds simple, but it’s not just as easy as looking out for “mercury” as an ingredient. Most manufacturers know that you’ll look out for that and likely know how dangerous it is. So, they tend to include the chemical names instead.
Look out for terms such as mercurous chloride, mercurio, mercuric, and even calomel on the back of the ingredients list. If you see any of them, they will have mercury in them.
The closer to the start the ingredients are, the more of them than other ingredients they have. This will give you an idea as to how seriously effective the mercury is in your product.
There’s No Ingredient List at All
Does the product you’ve found not include an ingredients label? Well, you want to skip it completely. This is against federal law.
Even if it weren’t for the mercury, you’d want to avoid these products. You just have no idea what’s in them. There could be many other dangerous chemicals.
However, do bear in mind that not all the ingredients will be found on ingredients labels. While it is now federal law to include all ingredients, those that are “special” or “secret” formulas don’t have to be included. They’re usually listed as parfum or fragrance to get around it. There could be mercury within them.
Watch Out Especially for Anti-Aging Products and Skin Lighteners
While any skin care product can include mercury, you’ll want to look out for anti-aging formulas and skin lighteners specifically. In one study, 12 out of 367 skin lightening products include mercury as one of the ingredients. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a statement that there are plenty products out there that include the poisonous-to-humans metal. This was just from those purchased in the United States.
When the worldwide products were considered, 33 out of 549 had the metal in relatively alarming rates (1,000 ppm).
One product that the FDA has specifically warned against use is Crema Piel De Seda. It’s a skin whitening cream from Mexico that contains mercury according to lab tests. If the FDA is recommending against it, then it’s clear that it is a problem. After all, the FDA doesn’t ban the use of formaldehyde in skin care products.
Check the Antiseptic Soaps and Lotions
It’s not just your skin creams and anti-aging products. Researchers have found that a lot of antiseptic soaps and lotions contain the mercury. The idea is that the metal will help to flush out the bacteria and kill them off quickly.
Of course, the metal does far more harm. Make sure you check the ingredients of all antiseptic soaps and lotions.
If you find a company that is proud of not using mercury, you may find that the marketing labels state this. This type of marketing isn’t that common since mercury ingredients aren’t as common as parabens.
Avoid the Common Brands
I’ve already mentioned the Mexican brand Cream Piel De Seda (Silky Skin Cream). This isn’t the only brand that is known by the FDA for include mercury in the ingredients. It’s worth avoiding Stillman’s, Diana, and Fasco brands too.
The FDA regularly checks for the ingredients in the products to make sure companies are labeling everything correctly and following laws. Look out for advice from the administration to make sure you remain protected.
Watch Out for All Imported Products
An imported product may not have been through testing from the FDA. The full ingredients may not be known, and that includes the levels of mercury. If you are importing something from outside of the country make sure you check the ingredients yourself. Do your research into any tests that have been performed on the ingredients in the home country?
Some countries won’t have a much governmental control. There are also brands that create products illegally or don’t care about the damage they cause to the skin. If you can’t find anything about the imported products, use them with caution.
If they’re imported from a country with no law over the list of ingredients, it’s better just to avoid them. They may not just include mercury!
Know Your Grocery Stores
Different grocery stores will stock different brands and types of products. Your smaller chains will have fewer brands, and these will be easier to check first. But you will need to work your way out to the bigger chains.
Grocery stores, beauty stores, and even herbal stores will all favor certain types of products. Some can accidentally favour the products that include mercury in the ingredients. These companies aren’t always going to do their research into the brands, as they’re a business. It’s up to you to check for yourself.
Find out which companies are more likely to stock the mercury-included products. You can then avoid the companies for all your skin care products. Let your friends and family members know about these stores so they can avoid mercury poisoning from their skin care products.
Get Rid of Suspected Products Right Away
If you think anything you are using includes mercury, you will need to get rid of it right away. It isn’t worth your health to perform a test or use the product until it’s finished to get your money’s worth. Put your whole family’s health first.
When you do get rid of the product, you’ll need to dispose of it properly. The mercury can secrete out of the product and affect everyone in the house without contact.
Mercury is viewed as “hazardous waste.” You will usually need to get in touch with a local waste company to remove it rather than putting it in your normal trash collection. This can also help to get the product to the FDA, who will test it and put it on a list of mercury-included products if it’s not already.
Always seal the products when throwing them out. Take them directly to your local hazardous waste facility if you can’t get it picked up. You may feel like you’re making a big deal out of this but including mercury in skin care is a big deal.
Get Rid of the Contaminated Products
Look around your house at all the products you’ve used with the mercury skin care items. The mercury will get onto the likes of towels, bed sheets, and clothes. Your family will breathe in the vapors, so the risks to the health are still there even if you’ve removed the skin care products from your home.
You need to get rid of the contaminated products. Even anything that you only suspect as being contaminated needs to be removed. Like when getting rid of the skin care products, you’ll want to put all items into sealed bags and send them to hazardous waste collection centers.
Yes, this can be an expensive step. However, your medical bills for mercury toxicity will be even higher. Plus, there is no price on a life.
Testing for Mercury Poisoning
After discarding the products, you suspect have mercury and getting rid of all contaminated items, you will need to get yourself, and your family checked for mercury poisoning. A urine test will be carried out to find out if you do have high levels of the poison in your system. If you are diagnosed with it, you will need to go through tests on a regular basis to make sure it’s all gone from your system.
DMSA is used as a chelation therapy to get rid of the mercury from the body. This is the only FDA-approved in children treatment available now. The studies on the effectiveness of the treatment are inconclusive currently, but there are no witnessed side effects to concern the FDA. It’s an oral treatment that is prescribed by doctors only.
It’s Best to Be Safe Than Sorry
While there are plenty of other toxins and chemicals that you want to avoid, mercury is the most poisonous of all. It’s so concerning that the FDA makes a point in advising individuals to avoid products.
Mercury is an extremely poisonous metal. While you may think in small amounts, you won’t damage your health, but you won’t realize that the metal is contaminating your clothes, your towels, your sheets, and much more. You breathe in the vapors without knowing and there’s no smell or taste to the metal. Even if you don’t use the product, you can run the risk of mercury poisoning.
The above nine tips will help you avoid poisoning. If you do suspect it or have any concerning symptoms, talk to your doctor for testing and treatment.