ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Health officials and pollution control agents are warning women about a product that's becoming more and more popular. It's called "skin lightening" cream and it's been found throughout the metro area. The danger is the mercury it's made with.
"It's a very significant level," Department of Health Asst. Commissioner Aggie Leitheiser warned.
"The concentrations of mercury are so high on some of these products that it would be a hazardous waste," Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Investigator Jeff Connell said.
So far, 11 creams have been tested and found to have high mercury levels.
"It's particularly an issue for kidneys and for renal disease, Leitheiser told reporters. "It can also cause a rash. Stop using these products. We have concerns about exposure."
Agents aren't going after the sellers. They're really concentrating on getting rid of the creams and finding out where they're coming from.
"We're looking at where the distribution points are. Where people are getting this material from, and how it's being imported," Connell said.
They've found the creams at a number of small beauty shops, bazaars, and markets and seized a dozen boxes just this week. Many have a foreign language on the box. Connell says the product is more popular in the Somali, Hmong, and African communities.
If you have one of these creams, you're asked to dispose of it like it was hazardous waste by dropping it off at a government collection center. The Pollution Control Agency is working on setting up some free collection points. Washington County residents can discard their products at 4039 Cottage Grove Drive in Woodbury.
For more information and a list of the products identified so far, here's a link to the Department of Health's website. The number for Minnesota Poison Control System is 1-800-222-1222.
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