Here’s something that you should not take lightly: skin-lightening creams. Such creams can contain mercury, and the results of smearing mercury on your skin may not be very pretty. In fact, a case report recently published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal hMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) showed how they can be devastating.

The case report chronicled what happened to a 47-year-old Mexican-American woman after regularly applying a skin-lightening cream to her face twice-a-day for seven years. In July 2019, she sought medical care after experiencing funny sensations and weakness in her arms. Things quickly got worse as her symptoms progressed to slurred speech, blurred vision, and difficulty walking, which soon landed her in the hospital where she eventually became delirious.

Testing found high levels of mercury in both her blood and urine. Testing also revealed that her skin-lightening cream that she had obtained from Mexico contained 12,000 ppm of mercury. Chelation therapy did not reverse her symptoms, as she was left unable to talk or take of herself to the point that she’s relied on a feeding tube to get nourishment.

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