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Skin-bleaching: got mercury?

Not this Mercury (who is actually Liberty misattributed as Mercury) Credit: FunTimesGuide.

The Minnesota Health Department yesterday issued a warning that skin-lightening cosmetic products sold in the area contain concentrations of inorganic mercury high enough to warrant their disposal as hazardous chemical waste.

Details on the warning can be found in this Star Tribune

article by Maura Lerner with intern Alejandra Matos (hurray for summer student interns!).

State technicians tested 27 products, including 23 creams and four soaps, and found that 11 had mercury levels ranging from 135 to 33,000 parts per million. Federal law permits only “trace amounts,” less than 1 part per million.

Ramsey County officials said they became suspicious about the lightening creams when a staffer came across a blog about the mercury dangers.

The staffer, who worked with immigrant groups, knew the creams were popular among Somalis and others and thought it was worth checking out, said Zachary Hansen, the county’s director of environmental health.

Skin-lightening creams are popular in African nations as well as in some Asian cultures. A truly excellent 2008 review from a group of clinical dermatologists at the University of Lagos College of Medicine appeared in the International Journal of Dermatology


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Sharks don’t get cancer but do they get Salmonella poisoning???

This post appeared originally at the ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata on 18 May 2007. I’m putting it up today to accompany a superb post by University of Hawai’i graduate student and science writer, Christie Wilcox, at Observations of a Nerd.

Actually, sharks do get cancer but a 15-year-old book by William Lane led people to think otherwise, launching investigation of shark cartilage as a source of antiangiogenic, anticancer compounds. While there is one promising shark cartilage extract (Neovastat) in clinical trials for multiple myeloma, most oral preparations on health food store shelves aren’t stabilized and characterized well-enough to guarantee stability of antiangiogenic compounds.

But it gets worse with this news today from FDA’s MedWatch program that illustrates once again the safety problems of some dietary supplements – shark cartilage may just not work; it might also give you Salmonella poisoning:

NBTY and FDA informed consumers and healthcare professionals of a nationwide recall of 3 lots of Shark Cartilage Capsules the company manufactured in 2004 and distributed to consumers through mail and internet orders, and retail stores throughout the United States. The product was recalled because of possible contamination with Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis. Customers can return the product back to the place of purchase for a full refund. Read the press release for specific names and lot numbers of the recalled product.

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