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Mercury Toxicity due to Use of a Cosmetic Cream

McRill, Cheryl MD, MPH; Boyer, Leslie V. MD; Flood, Timothy J. MD; Ortega, Luis MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: January 2000 - Volume 42 - Issue 1 - p 4
Original Articles

The Arizona Department of Health Services performed an investigation to determine the health effects associated with the use of a mercury-containing beauty cream. A urine test for mercury was offered to cream users who contacted the Arizona Department of Health Services. Those with urine mercury levels >20 μg/L were offered clinical evaluation. Eighty-nine urine specimens were submitted for testing. Of these, 66 showed an elevated urine mercury level (>20 μg/L), and 55 people were evaluated in clinic. There were no major abnormalities found through physical examination or laboratory testing. Urine mercury levels declined from an initial mean of 170 μg/L to 32 μg/L at the final test (mean, 139 days later). The high urine mercury levels indicate that the use of this cosmetic cream constitutes a significant exposure. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were frequently reported, but few objective signs were noted.

From the University of Arizona, Preventive Medicine Residency, Tucson, Ariz. (Dr McRill); the Department of Pediatrics, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson, Ariz. (Dr Boyer); the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix, Ariz. (Dr Flood); the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix, Ariz. (Dr Ortega).

Address correspondence to: Cheryl McRill, MD, MPH, Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Arizona Department of Health Services, 3815 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85015; e-mail: cmcrill@hs.state.az.us.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.