Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Read the Label

Cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry. They are heavily advertised and often come in beautiful packaging. However, no matter how attractive the front label is, it won’t tell you anything about the health and safety of the product. When choosing cosmetics the most important piece of information is the ingredient list. To protect consumers the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetic labeling requiring all ingredients to be listed in descending order of concentration.

Last week the FDA issued a warning against 35 off-brand and foreign cosmetics that contain mercury. The tainted products have been found in seven states so far, including Texas, California, Virginia, Maryland, New York and Minnesota; and include skin lighteners, age-spot removers, anti-aging creams, and acne treatments. Mercury has also been found in some antiseptic soaps and lotions.

The dangerous products are usually manufactured overseas and then brought into the U.S. illegally, or, in some cases, by returning travelers. One sample tested in Texas revealed mercury levels that were 131,000 times the allowable levels. Many of the products have labels in other languages or have no labels at all. When shopping, avoid any product that lists mercurous chloride, calomel, mercuric, mercurio, or mercury among the ingredients.

The symptoms of mercury exposure include tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and numbness in the hands and feet. It can also cause depression, irritability, and memory problems. Mercury will accumulate in the body and can eventually cause organ damage, illness and death.

My advice is to always read all labels and if you can't read the language that lists the ingredients, or if ingredients aren't listed, don't buy the product.

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