A 47-year-old woman from Sacramento, Calif., stumbled into the ER earlier this summer, slurring her speech and complaining of numbness in her face and hands. Soon after, she slipped into a semi-comatose state, which she's now been in for weeks, and health officials say they've traced the cause back to mercury poisoning from a face cream she bought in Mexico. The unidentified woman's son tells KCRA his mom went to the hospital in July, and doctors asked for a list of all the cosmetics she used and sent them out for tests. It was discovered that a Pond's-branded cream used to lighten skin and remove wrinkles and dark spots, which she'd purchased at a pharmacy in the state of Jalisco, contained high levels of methylmercury, a poisonous variety of mercury. Less than 20 micrograms of mercury per liter of blood is normal; she had more than 2,600mcg per liter.
"It can reach high levels in the blood and it can also cross into the brain," Sacramento County public health chief Olivia Kasirye says. "Once it crosses into the brain, even if you go to the hospital, the medication we have cannot pull it out." The woman's son tells CBS Sacramento his mom had been using the cream twice a day for years, and that she knew something was added to the cream after it was sent out from the factory. That's why she liked it, he says, because it seemed to work better than similar products. Officials say the mercury was added after the manufacturing process, and not by Pond's. The company issued a statement, noting it it does not use mercury in its products and promising to "work closely with all authorized retailers to be sure products remain intact and safe for use from shipment to shelf." (Read more mercury poisoning stories.)