The woman is currently in a semi-comatose state after using a Pond’s-labeled skin cream she obtained through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico, the health services department said.
She was hospitalized with symptoms including numbness, tingling of the fingers and toes, slurring of speech, difficulty walking, and headache before she was diagnosed with methylmercury poisoning.
“You know, she doesn’t speak and we’re not really sure if she’s fully focused looking at us and stuff,” the woman’s son told WAFB, identifying himself only as Jay to protect his mother’s identity. “She can’t get up, stand, walk or none of that. She’s just kind of bed-bound.”
“The mercury was not added by the Pond’s manufacturer, but by a third party after purchase,” the news release said.
Methylmercury can cause symptoms such as memory loss, anxiety, depression, headaches, and tremors, the statement said.
The tainted product was used as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles, according to the statement.
“Sacramento County Public Health urges the community to immediately stop using similar skin creams imported from Mexico due to the risk of contamination with methylmercury,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye.
“Methylmercury is extremely dangerous to adults and children.”
Pond’s said in a statement that the company does not use mercury in its products and is working closely with authorized retailers to ensure available products are safe.
“The product in question is not sold in the U.S.,” the company’s statement said. “We are concerned about the woman who had this experience and are working with authorities to investigate the matter. We strongly recommend only purchasing POND’S products from trusted retailers.”
This is the first reported case of methylmercury poisoning of this type linked to skin cream in the United States.
But in California over the last nine years, there have been more than 60 poisonings linked to foreign brand, unlabeled, and homemade skin creams that contained mercurous chloride or calomel, the less toxic form of mercury, the health services department’s statement said.
The majority of the creams appear to originate in Mexico and China, according to the Department of Health information, which said some products contain mercury at 200,000 times the legal limit.
“People use these types of creams for fading freckles, blemishes, and age spots; treating acne; and lightening the skin,” said a separate statement by the Sacramento Department of Health. “These creams are usually sold in small stores, swap meets, by individuals, or on the internet.”
Officials warned the public to avoid handmade, unlabeled creams and brand-name containers without seals.
The CNN Wire and Epoch Times reporter Simon Veazey contributed to this article.