Warning about skin lotion: Possible mercury contamination

Warning about skin lotion: Possible mercury contamination

AMARILLO- Mercury in skin lotions has made people fall dangerously ill across the nation and here in Texas.

If you knew the product you were using on your face and body contained mercury, most people would shy away from that cosmetic.

"It's such a big problem that the FDA doesn't have the police to go after these products," Dr. Jack Waller with the Texas Tech Health and Science center said.

Cracking down on harmful cosmetics is a problem Dr. Waller knows all too well.

"In the state of Texas, we've had some inhalation cases of mercury," he said.

The toxic element has been found primarily in skin creams marketed as lighteners and anti-aging treatments.

"These people get really sick and this product is absorbed into the skin and it stays in the body," he explained. "There is not a mechanism in the body to cleanse itself from mercury."

Mercury poisoning has sent women in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York and a south Texas teen to the hospital.

Speculation surfaced that fish oil may have contributed to the mercury poisoning.

Waller disagrees.

"It almost purposely has to be added to cosmetics," he said. "You've got a chemist putting together something he knows has mercury in it."

Why would anybody want to expose people to such a toxic substance?

We're told mercury is a very inexpensive, yet highly effective skin lightening agent.

While most manufacturer's will not list mercury as an ingredient, it's products that don't have ingredient labels that should act as a red flag.

"You can not have a product put on the skin that does not have either ingredient labels on the product itself or the box," Waller said.

We're told we'd most likely find cosmetic items without ingredient labels inside Hispanic or Asian specialty shops.

We sent our news intern to scope out businesses across town today.

Our first stop was at La Chiquita off Amarillo Blvd.

Our intern came back empty handed but on our second stop at Tri's Asian Market, we found a skin whitening product on store shelves without any ingredient labels.

"The problem with these products is that they don't get cited very often and when somebody does get in trouble with them, it usually doesn't get the media's attention," Waller said.

We also hit up a few more shops across Amarillo without any luck.

Now just because you can find these products without labels, doesn't necessarily mean they have mercury in them.

All consumers are encouraged to pay closer attention to the cosmetics they use.

If you have any questions or concerns, you're always asked to first visit with your dermatologist before calling any product manufacturing companies.