FDA: Mercury-Made Makeup from Abroad Possibly Being Sold to Minorities

A few weeks ago, GreenAnswers commented on the disturbing discovery of lead in lipstick. Now, the FDA has announced that there’s a new threat lurking in the makeup aisle: mercury.

Gary Coody, national health fraud coordinator for the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, reports that scientists have found the substance in 35 “potentially poisonous” beauty products, mostly creams and lotions claiming to treat acne, smooth wrinkles, remove age marks, freckles, and blemishes, and lighten skin.

Already, goods found violating the FDA’s face cream limit on mercury have been found in six states: California, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Virginia.

Fortunately, the mercury isn’t in the big-name products, keeping this news from sparking a national panic. The mercury has been found in illegally sold foreign brands, such as Diana, Stillman’s, Lusco, and Crema Aguamary, that tend to cater to ethnic minorities, particularly Latino, African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern communities. So unfortunately, say some pundits, the very people whom this news affects may not hear about it due to communication barriers. In other words, unless the FDA starts aggressively snatching the offending goods off the shelves, the makeup may well continue to be sold.

Officials emphasize, however, that any toxic creams found will indeed be confiscated from stores, and business owners carrying the products will potentially face fees and legal action. Yet that still leaves the threat of any lotions left lingering on the shelves, many of which either have labels written in foreign languages or no labels at all.

That threat, say doctors, is significant.

According to Dr. Charles Lee, senior medical advisor for the FDA, mercury “can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain in unborn children and very young children.”

Mercury poisoning can also lead to other adverse health effects, including depression, irritability, changes in hearing or vision, numbness in the hands or feet, tremors, and memory problems. And more concerning, the substance does not have to be directly consumed to cause complications; mercury is harmful even when only inhaled.

The FDA warns any consumers in possession of makeup described similarly to the creams and lotions above to “stop [use] immediately.” In addition, the agency recommends that consumers pay attention to what makes up their makeup, and look out for key words like “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercurio,” or just-plain “mercury” on cosmetics ingredient lists. Along the same guidelines, spokespeople advise women to be wary of any unlabeled makeup or makeup imported from abroad without FDA approval.

Anyone who has potentially been exposed to mercury should contact a doctor or poison control center as soon as possible.

Photo Credit: wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/File:Makeup_brush.jpg

Natural Ways to Rid Your Body of Toxins

In this day and age, humans are likely to carry toxins in their bodies. Environmental toxins such as heavy metals from car exhaust to pesticides and PCBs can have a significant impact on our general health and well-being. Therefore, a regimen involving detoxification is recommended in order to protect oneself from toxins.

Our everyday activities involve the use of plastics, cosmetics, hygiene products, and even foods, which can all contain toxic materials that can be absorbed into our tissues.  A recent survey, collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found various traces of environmental toxins in Americans, ranging from heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium, to pesticides, flame retardants, and even perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel.

What is concerning is that these environmental toxins affect our bodies in various ways.  Environmental toxic exposure can lead to behavioral, cardiovascular, cognitive, endocrine, immune, metabolic, and reproductive abnormalities.  The nervous system is especially susceptible to toxic exposure because the brain consists mainly of lipids and most environmental toxins are lipid-soluble.  In addition, prior research has established a link between neurodegenerative disorders such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, conduct disorders, certain forms of dementia, and learning disorders to toxin exposure.  Toxic exposure can also manifest in symptoms not directly related to a specific disorder such as fatigue, headache, impaired concentration and memory, and insomnia.  It is important to note that children may be more susceptible to environmental toxins than adults.

Disconcertingly, regulations concerning industrial chemicals are not as stringent compared to those used to monitor drugs and pesticides because of the misguided belief that low exposure to toxins are not as concerning.  However, advances in biomonitoring have allowed researchers to detect human exposure levels to toxins as tiny as one part per trillion, which have led scientists to discover that some toxins are harmful to humans even at very low levels.

Be that as it may, there are ways to protect yourself from over exposure to environmental toxins.  According to Dr. Jeffrey Rossman, two simple ways to start protecting yourself from environmental hazards are to minimize exposure and absorption of toxins in the first place and to regularly detoxify your body.  Rossman also advises people to eat organically which will help reduce exposure to toxins.  Organic produce can be found at your local farmer’s market or at a supermarket (however, be sure to look for the USDA Organic seal).

However, it is important to note that eating organically will not prevent you from exposure to all toxins because these days, they are everywhere including in the air we breathe, water we drink, and products we use.  That is why detoxification is an important step in reducing the amount of toxins that reside in your body.  Tereza Hubkova, MD, an integrative physician at Canyon Ranch, suggests several ways to achieve healthy detoxification including the following:

1. Eating mainly organic foods, especially vegetables such as garlic and onions.
2. Exercising on a regular basis.
3. Hitting the sauna because perspiration is one way in which toxins are released from the body.
4. Flushing out toxins by drinking at least 64 ounces of preferably fresh and pure water.
5. Having regular bowel movements.
6. Acquiring antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, and B vitamins, all of which help with detoxification.

Photo credit: ehow.com/how_8148734_write-research-paper-organic-food.html

Mysterious Illness Rocks A Community in Upstate New York

A mysterious illness affecting multiple teenage girls at a high school in upstate New York has residents of the small town all aflutter.  In the small town of Le Roy, New York, (population of just under 8,000) at least a dozen teenaged girls, one boy, and one school nurse have begun exhibiting symptoms ranging from subtle twitches to violent jerking of body parts and verbal outbursts.  Since August, researchers and the media alike have taken an interest in what could possibly be the cause of this emerging trend.

Doctors from the Dent Neurological Institute in Amherst, New York, were among the first to look into the issue, ruling that tics and twitches were a result of a conversion disorder.  Conversion disorder, which has in the past been referred to as ‘mass hysteria’ is a “condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation.”  Prompted by inner conflict, conversion disorder is the physical embodiment of psychological turmoil.  Those who typically are afflicted with conversion disorder typically must look to therapy or other psychological treatments for this disease.

For many who believe that the mystery at Le Roy Junior/Senior High School is a product of a psychosomatic phenomenon, the popularity of social networking sights proves to be the perfect transmitters for the disease.  Sites like Facebook and YouTube are just as popular with teens in Le Roy as they are with teens all around the world.  Dr. David Lichter has tested one of the afflicted girls and believes this to be the case.  As a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Buffalo, he believes that “If you are a person who is vulnerable in some way because of your own stresses and anxieties and particularly if you identify with that individual through some kind of an emotional bond…then I think there is a potential to create a further potential spread.”

For many young people, social media and online identities are just as important as face-to-face interactions.  This idea that ailments have gone viral is not completely unwarranted.  Dr. Lichter and other researchers suggest that perhaps on some unconscious level these symptoms may be implanted into another person and physically mimicked.  “I think you do have the potential for people going online and witnessing other student’s behavior, then I think this medium has the potential to spread it beyond the immediate environment,” states Lichter.  This seems all the more likely since many of the girls have posted videos on YouTube showing the differences in their body movements.

But this answer is not enough for many including the worried parents who are looking for answers or preventative steps in protecting themselves and their families.  At the behest of concerned parents, another opinion was sought—this time from a New Jersey-based specialist in pediatric neurologist.  PANDAS/PANS was then thrown into the mix. An acronym for pediatric acute neuropsychiatric syndrome, PANS draws a line from the “body’s response to certain bacterial infections.”  Perhaps then a bacterial infection, like strep throat, could have been the catalyst for this new disease.

Another possible answer to this mystery revolves around a train wreck that occurred within a couple miles of the high school in 1970, spilling approximately 30,000 gallons of tricholorethene (TCE) into the surrounding soil and water sources.  Believed to have been cleaned up at the time, this alarm has still sparked much concern amongst residents and interested parties across the country, including well-known activist Erin Brokovich. 

While the spill was considered clean, with wells dug to monitor water at the site (by hydraulic cleansing, a controversial method of accessing oils beneath the earth’s surface, no less), additional testing was conducted on the remaining barrels.  Out of the 240 55-gallon barrels, 80 were tested—one contained trace amounts of TCE.  While continued testing of the area will bring more answers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered for all the barrels to, finally, be removed.  But why after all these years would the spill be affecting the community? Why has it primarily targeted teenagers? And girls?

With no certain or concrete evidence behind these claims, it is evident that continued research is necessary.  For the time being, citizens of Le Roy will continue to look after the health of themselves and the town. Meanwhile, the country, and perhaps the rest of the world, will continue to look on.  

Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Downtown_Le_Roy,_NY.jpg

The Use of Maggot Debridement Therapy in Medicine

According to French researchers, maggots might be the answer to cleaning large wounds that do not heal easily.  Some studies have shown that maggots not only help clean the wounds, but also offer antibacterial and healing benefits.

For instance, in a recent study done on patients suffering from venous ulcers on their legs, maggot therapy proved to be the better alternative than surgical cleaning performed by doctors.  In this particular study, two groups of patients were randomly assigned maggot therapy or surgical cleaning.  Maggot therapy consisted of placing little bags of the maggot species Lucilia sericata over the wounds twice a week.  After a week, around two-thirds of the patients who received surgical cleaning had dead tissue – also referred to as slough –  covering their wound, which can impair healing.  However, only around half of the patients who received maggot therapy had slough covering their wounds.  In addition, there was no difference in the amount of pain or crawling sensation reported between the two groups.


Only a few species of fly larvae are suitable to help clean wounds, and these include the blowfly.  Maggots do the job of cleaning the wound by secreting digestive juices onto the wound area and then ingesting the liquefied tissue and bacteria.  Maggots can be very helpful because they remove dead tissue and expose healthy tissue in a process referred to as debridement.  Maggot debridement therapy is usually applied when other measures fail. It was a popular method of treatment in the early 1900s, but lost its popularity after the introduction of antibiotics. However, it is making a comeback in the medical field.  In 2004, the use of maggots for medical purposes was approved in the United States.

However, maggot therapy is not for the weak-hearted.  There is a risk that maggot therapy is too gross of a treatment for some patients.  Furthermore, the above-mentioned study also found that the benefits of using maggots to help treat wounds disappeared after two weeks and that there was no difference in wound closure.

Interestingly, the French researchers who conducted the study, mentioned that in the future maggots might be useful in preparing wounds for skin grafting.  Nevertheless, the use of maggots in today’s practice of medicine is not yet the preferred method of treatment, but might become so in the future.

Photo credit: maggots.co.za/photos-and-pictures/what-do-maggots-look-like/