Face cream containing mercury suspected of poisoning Tucson child

Published: Jul. 21, 2016 at 8:09 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 22, 2016 at 10:00 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Tucson child may have serious health issues, and the source may be mercury in a face cream from Mexico.

State workers are conducting tests.

The reason a face cream is suspected is this has happened in Tucson before.

Poison experts say they've been called in to cases because some face creams from Mexico, Asia and other places can contain mercury which often is used to lighten the skin.

Several emergency, environmental and health agencies - local, state and federal responded to what was called a hazardous materials situation at a Tucson home on Wednesday.

A small child had to be taken to the hospital. She had been exposed to mercury which can seriously damage a child's developing nervous system.

Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center Medical Director Dr. Mazda Shirazi said, with sporadic exposures, adults are not affected because they have a developed nervous system.

Officials from the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center took several samples of face cream from the home to the Arizona State lab for analysis to see if they are the source of the contamination.

They are looking at other possible sources as well.

Poison control experts say a child who doesn't use the cream directly can be exposed to the poison in a couple of ways.

One way a child who is not directly using the cream can be exposed is by coming in contact with the hands or face of an adult who has used the cream, by eating the cream, or by inhaling the mercury.

"A problem with mercury is, at our temperatures above a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, mercury in an inorganic form can vaporize, meaning turn into a vapor into the air, then be inhaled into the system and cause problems," said Dr. Shirazi.

Dr. Shirazi said that can happen too if you break an old mercury thermometer inside your home.

Once officials figure out the source of the mercury contamination, they'll come up with a plan to see who else may be exposed in our community, and get them evaluated, said Dr. Shirazi. 

State lab results are expected to come soon.

"Our concern is that someone in the house was using the cream and we're trying to find out the exact cream, the exact source that cream was purchased and what needs to be done to take of this problem," said Dr. Shirazi.

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