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Cosmetic cream Santen found to contain unsafe levels of mercury

The Hong Kong Department of Health (DH) has appealed to members of the public not to buy or use a cosmetic cream called Santen as it may contain excessive mercury, which is dangerous to health.

The use of mercury in commercial skin whitening creams dates back to the early 1900s, however although this ingredient can work extremely well in the short-term it is often poses dangers with respect to the long-term health of a user's skin.

The use of mercury in skin whitening creams dates back to the early 1900s, however although it can work extremely well in the short-term it often poses dangers to the long-term health of a user’s skin.

The appeal followed the DH’s receipt of notification of a case of mercury poisoning from the Hospital Authority (HA) involving a female patient aged 28. The DH commenced investigation immediately.

The patient attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Queen Mary Hospital on March 17 for facial swelling. She was admitted for further management on the same day and was discharged on March 21. Her clinical features were compatible with mercury poisoning. The HA’s laboratory results reported that the mercury level in the patient’s blood and urine samples was elevated. She described a history of use of the above product for about one month before admission.

“The patient submitted a cosmetic cream to the HA for testing and the test result showed that the level of mercury was 15 211 times the acceptable level. Preliminary investigation revealed that the patient had obtained the product indirectly from a friend. The DH’s investigation is continuing,” the DH spokesman added.

The case has also been referred to the Customs and Excise Department for follow-up.

“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,” the spokesman explained.

“As the level of mercury in the product is 15 211 times the acceptable level, use of the product may cause serious side effects. People who have used the above product should stop using it immediately and consult health-care 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 said.

One Response to “Cosmetic cream Santen found to contain unsafe levels of mercury”

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    December 11, 2015 at 10:54 am #

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