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Some beauty products pose serious health hazards

Consumers need to be aware of dangerous beauty products containing hazardous substances that can be detrimental to your health. In some instances, hair styling products, skin creams and makeup have been found to contain bacteria, heavy metals or hazardous chemicals.

Recently, federal Food and Drug Administration investigators discovered that a number of skin creams imported from other countries have unexpected ingredients -- specifically, levels of mercury and other heavy metals that are toxic to people. Users of these products risk serious illness from mercury poisoning, symptoms of which can include memory loss, vision and hearing problems, irritability and tremors. The skin creams containing mercury so far do not include any U.S.-made products, but the imported skin creams are widely sold, especially in import stores or ethnic markets.

Often, these skin creams are touted as good for skin lightening or anti-aging use. Many such products have labels published in Hindi, Chinese or other foreign languages. Some fail to list their ingredients, while others may disguise the inclusion of mercury under various euphemisms such as "calomel," "mercuric," "mercurion" or "mercurous chloride." Maryland is one of a handful of states that have reported cases of elevated mercury levels in people exposed to skin products containing the toxin.

Other dangerous beauty products include lipsticks, with the FDA finding lead in all of the hundreds of brands tested. Mascara can sometimes develop dangerous bacteria if kept too long, such as over three months. Some hair straighteners may contain formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical, even if their label denies it. Further, mineral-based beauty products, often promoted as a more natural type of makeup, can be hazardous because powdered minerals may contain tiny particles of substances such as mica, which can be harmful to the lungs if inhaled. They are often small enough to float in the air.

People who suffer harmful effects from these cosmetics might consider filing a personal injury lawsuit to recoup the costs of medical expenses resulting from mercury poisoning or another illness suffered from using a toxic product.

Source: Forbes, "Dangerous Beauty: 5 Scariest Beauty Products," Melanie Haiken, March 12, 2012

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