Woman poisoned by face cream with mercury 43,000 times above limit
Aug 26, 2009, 2:46 GMT
Hong Kong - Hong Kong women were on Wednesday being urged not to use a face cream after it was found to contain more than 43,000 times the acceptable level of mercury.
The Department of Health issued the warning after a 58-year-old woman was admitted to hospital with mercury poisoning after using the cream.
The woman fell sick early July with headaches, dizziness, tremors and a tingling sensation on her feet after using the cream twice a day for a month.
Laboratory results showed that the level of mercury in the cream was 43,266 times over the acceptable level.
Officials are now investigating the source of the cream which has only a Chinese name.
A spokesman for the health department urged people who had been using the cosmetic cream to stop immediately and seek advice from their doctors as soon as possible.
Mercury has long been used as a whitening agent in cosmetic creams, especially so in Asia where pale skin is seen as a sign of beauty and nobility.
But in high doses mercury is toxic and causes damage to the nervous system and kidneys and in severe cases can cause renal failure.
In 17th-century Europe, it was used in the process to make felt hats and the psychiatric changes it triggered in hatmakers led to the phrase 'as mad as a hatter being coined.