Scattered through the literature are a number of records of damage associated with the use of various ointments containing insoluble compounds of mercury. It is a common belief that such use may be associated not only with varying degrees of local irritation but also with general effects varying from slight functional disturbance to fatal damage. Indeed, merely because such materials contain the potentially dangerous mercury, little hesitation is manifested in accepting such views without further question.
Today the problem has assumed a new and practical aspect for two reasons. The first is that the new food and drug laws have given the authorities the power to remove dangerous materials from public availability; the second, that new physiologic and pathologic conceptions of repair processes raise the interesting question whether small, individually innocuous doses of this type of material can really lead to poisoning.
The use of mercury on the skin by
GIBBS OS, SHANK R, POND H, HANSMANN GH. ABSORPTION OF EXTERNALLY APPLIED AMMONIATED MERCURY. Arch Derm Syphilol. 1941;44(5):862–872. doi:10.1001/archderm.1941.01500050092008