A California woman has been left in a semi-comatose state after using tainted skin cream.
The cream -- meant to lighten skin and treat wrinkles -- was labeled as “Ponds” cream, but toxic chemicals had been added by a third party and imported from Mexico, according to KOVR-TV.
The Sacramento Public Health Department said the cream was tainted with the chemical methylmercury.
Over the last nine years, more than 60 poisonings linked to foreign or unlabeled skin creams have been reported in California. This is the first reported case of methylmercury poisoning in the U.S.
California residents who believe they might be in possession of counterfeit or tainted skin cream should stop using the product immediately and contact the California Department of Public Health.
“You should avoid handmade or unlabeled creams and other brand-name containers that are not sealed when purchased,” Sacramento health officials said in a news release.
“Unsealed containers could have been tampered with and may contain mercury. … These creams are usually sold in small stores, swap meets, by individuals, or on the internet.”
Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in air, water and soil, but human exposure, even in small amounts can cause serious health problems, the World Health Organization said on its website.
The element is considered one of the top 10 most dangerous chemicals to public health, WHO officials said, and can have serious effects, including causing a toxic impact on the nervous, digestive and immune systems.