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Last Edited: 5/23/14

Mercury Poisoning from "Homemade" Skin Creams From Mexico
Written: 05/19/10


Certain skin-lightening or acne creams from Mexico have recently caused multiple cases of mercury poisoning throughout California. Cream users purchased the products on the street in California cities through informal networks of friends or they brought them into the USA from Mexico. These non-commercial, homemade creams are used for lightening the skin; fading freckles, blemishes, and age spots; and treating acne. Products usually come in plastic containers that either have no label or have hand-made labels (see photos in health alert or flyer below). The poisoning cases have included several children and babies who were not cream users but who were exposed to mercury through contact with family members who used the products. The California Department of Public Health's (CDPH) Food and Drug Laboratory found creams to contain very high levels of mercury, up to 210,000 parts per million (ppm) or 21 percent. It is illegal to sell skin cream products in the USA that have 1 ppm or more of mercury.

Health Alert and Fact Sheet (2014)

Health Alert - Mercury in Homemade MX Creams (PDF, 179KB)

Fact Sheet (Spanish) - Mercury in Homemade MX Creams (PDF, 140KB)

Fact Sheet (English) - Mercury in Homemade MX Creams (PDF, 122KB)  

For more information, or to request hard copies of the educational material, please contact Alyce Ujihara or Lori Copan by clicking on the link below. For information in Spanish, please contact Lori Copan.

Este anuncio de servicio público fue emitido por radio en español durante el mes de julio de 2010 a lo largo de California para alertar al público acerca de las cremas para la cara que contienen mercurio. (This public service announcement aired during the month of July 2010 on Spanish-language radio throughout California to alert the public of face creams containing mercury and is available only in Spanish).

Public Service Announcement in Spanish (2010)

El mercurio en las cremas faciales - 30 Segundos (Anuncio de Servicio Públic)

El mercurio en las cremas faciales - 60 Segundos (Anuncio de Servicio Públic)

Related Publications by CDPH/EHIB Staff

Elevated mercury levels in pregnant woman linked to skin cream from Mexico.

MMWR - Mercury Exposure Among Household Users and Nonusers of Skin-Lightening Creams Produced in Mexico
— California and Virginia, 2010


Mercury Poisoning From Commercial/Store-Bought Skin Creams



Mercury is a toxic chemical. It has been found in face creams used to lighten or bleach skin, treat acne, and fade age spots, blemishes, or freckles. To find out if dangerous products are sold in California, CDPH tested over 100 imported skin-lightening creams and other products for mercury. Most of the items were purchased at ethnic markets in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. A few products were purchased online. Four products purchased from ethnic markets contained very high amounts of mercury. Products that tested positive for mercury were, Monsepa Bleaching Express Peeling and three products made in China within the Jiaoli line. For more information, or to request hard copies of the educational materials, please contact Alyce Ujihara or Lori Copan by clicking on the link below. For information in Spanish, please contact Lori Copan.

CDPH Fact Sheets (2014)

Chinese - Mercury in Commercial/Store-Bought Creams (PDF, 387KB)

English - Mercury in Commercial/Store-Bought Creams (PDF, 172KB)

Tagalog - Mercury in Commercial/Store-Bought Creams (PDF, 236KB)

Vietnamese - Mercury in Commercial/Store-Bought Creams (PDF, 310KB)

Spanish - Mercury in Commercial/Store-Bought Creams (PDF, 224KB)

Fact Sheets From FDA and Other States

FDA - Mercury Poisoning Linked to Skin Products

Minnesota Department of Health - Skin Lightening Products Found to Contain Mercury

Texas Department of State Health Services - Mercury Poisoning Linked to Mexican Beauty Cream

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - Skin Lightening Creams Containing Mercury