Most pregnant women know to avoid mercury from certain fish as it could harm a developing baby. But did you know that some skin care products contain mercury? Mercury may be found in skin creams, lotions and certain soaps. It is also found in some skin-lightening creams made outside of the U.S.
According to the FDA, “Some people – including pregnant women, nursing babies and young children – are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity…Babies may be particularly sensitive to the harm mercury can cause to their developing brains and nervous systems. Newborns who nurse are vulnerable because mercury is passed into breast milk.”
FDA senior medical advisor Arthur Simone, M.D. says “Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face.”
How do you know if your product contains mercury?
Check the list of ingredients, and do not use the product if any of these words are listed: “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.”
The FDA further warns that if there is no product label or list of ingredients, do not use it. They say “Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on the label of any cosmetic or nonprescription drug, so do not use a product that doesn’t have a label.”
Why is mercury dangerous?
Mercury is a metal which can damage many parts of your body, including your lungs, kidneys and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). It also can cause hearing and vision problems. How serious the damage is depends on how much mercury you’re exposed to. Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage and hearing and vision problems.
Where else is mercury found?
You can be exposed to mercury through your skin (lotions or creams), the air (by breathing it) and eating or drinking food or water that contains mercury. See our article for more details about where mercury may be found and ways to stay safe.
Have questions? Text or email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.