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Skin Cream Altered With Mercury Puts Woman In Coma

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento woman is in a coma after using a tainted skin cream with a powerful form of mercury mixed into it.

The Sacramento County Public Health Department is issuing a warning for people not to use skin creams imported from Mexico following this case.

The creams are often altered after leaving the manufacturer, with additives mixed to increase the cream's performance. The skin cream used by the woman had a Pond's label and tested positive for "methylmercury."

The 47-year-old woman's son, who did not want to be identified, spoke to CBS13 about learning her condition was the result of using the cream.

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"It was a huge slap in the face, honestly," he said. "You don't expect something this severe to happen with just a face lotion."

The symptoms are now severe, but they started more mildly.

"It came on very slowly," the patient's son said. "She had mentioned just numbing in her lips, and numbing in her mouth, she had a lot of fatigue, very tired all the time, just wanting to be in bed."

He said his mother regularly used the skin cream and she knew it was altered from its original manufacturing in Mexico because the product typically worked better. For years she used it twice a day.

The Sacramento County Public Health Office has released a chart of dozens of skin creams from Mexico seized in California that have texted positive for mercury. Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said this time the woman in the coma used a version of the cream included a powerful form of mercury called methylmercury.

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"We don't know whether this was an intentional change, or whether there was a mistake in the person who was adding the mercury," Dr. Kasirye said.

Kasirye said there is an informal network of suppliers that bring in the altered skin creams into the country, selling them in swap meets and flea markets. In this case, the purchase was from an individual the woman knew, according to her son.

A seemingly harmless product, leaving her in a dire medical state.

"To see this happen to my Mom, it's tough," he said.

Sacramento County said this is the first reported case of "methylmercury" poisoning of this type linked to skin cream in the United States.

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