Hong Kong warns public of 'excessive mercury' found in skin care cream

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Hong Kong warns public of 'excessive mercury' found in skin care cream

Related tags Cosmetics

Hong Kong's Department of Health has appealed to members of the public not to buy or use a cosmetic cream product as it may contain excessive mercury.

The appeal followed the Department's receipt of notification of a case of mercury poisoning from the Hospital Authority (HA) involving a female patient aged 31 and commenced an investigation immediately.

The patient was admitted to Tseung Kwan O Hospital on May 29 for swelling of lower limbs.

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She described a recent history of using the product (without an English name), as can be seen here on the right, for a few months before the symptoms appeared.

Her urine sample revealed a mercury level higher than the acceptable level and this was clinically suspected to be related to the use of the above product.

"Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the ability to taste. In the most severe cases, renal failure may occur,​" a spokesman for the Department explained.

The product sample has been tested by the DH and the laboratory results today revealed that the level of mercury was 6,411​ times the acceptable level.

"As the content of mercury in the above product is as high as 6,411 times the acceptable level, using the product may cause serious side-effects. People who have used it should stop immediately and consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible if they feel unwell or are in doubt. Members of the public are urged not to buy or use cosmetic products of unknown composition or from doubtful sources​," the spokesman added.

At the time of publishing, this investigation is ongoing and the case has been referred to the Customs and Excise Department for follow-up investigation.

Mercury also uncovered in Philippine cosmetics...

Mercury-containing cosmetics are rife in the Philippines. The news comes from environmental group EcowasteCoalition who found the majority of cosmetics products tested in discount stores there to have contained dangerous chemicals in 2013.

In samples of mixed cosmetics taken from 2011-2013, nearly two thirds (61%) were found to contain dangerous chemicals.

Even more disturbingly, the vast majority of skin whitening products examined contained “outrageous” ​levels of mercury and heavy metals.

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