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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
February 11, 2020

Mercury Poisoning From Skin Cream

JAMA. 2020;323(6):500. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0292

Using a mercury-tainted skin-lightening cream obtained in Mexico left a California woman unable to speak or care for herself, according to a CDC report.

The 47-year-old Mexican American woman sought outpatient medical care last July after developing dysesthesias and upper extremity weakness. She was hospitalized 2 weeks later with slurred speech, blurry vision, and an unsteady gait. In the hospital, she developed agitated delirium. Testing 2 weeks into her hospital stay revealed extraordinarily high mercury levels of 2620 μg/L in blood samples and 110 μg/L in urine. Upper limits of mercury in the US Mexican American population from 2015 to 2016 were 1.81 μg/L in blood and 0.90 μg/L in urine. At the California Poison Control System’s recommendation, chelation therapy was initiated.

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