SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/CNN) - Doctors say a 47-year-old California woman is in a semi-comatose state after they found methylmercury in a jar of face cream she had been using.
The woman’s son said she had been buying the Pond’s Rejuveness cream from Jalisco, Mexico, through a friend. She fell ill at the end of June.
“You know, she doesn't speak and we're not really sure if she's fully focused looking at us and stuff. She can't get up, stand, walk or none of that. She's just kind of bed-bound,” said the woman’s son, who chose to only identify himself as Jay to protect his mother’s identity.
Methylmercury is a central nervous system toxin that is formed when bacteria react with inorganic mercury in water, soil or plants. The woman’s son says she’d been buying the cream from Mexico through a friend of a friend for 12 years without any trouble and knew an additive was being put into the jars before it was shipped.
Jay said the additive was even a selling point.
The woman was hospitalized for a week before methylmercury was identified as the culprit in her slurred speech, loss of motor function and loss of herself.
"It’s really hard, you know, just knowing who my mom is, who she ... her personality. She’s a very active woman. You know, early in morning, get up, do her morning exercises, walks with her dog,” Jay said.
Experts said this is the first time a case of this type of mercury poisoning has been reported in the United States.
“We shouldn't have any mercury in our body but if you did, you would want it less than five. Hers was over 2,600 parts per million," said a public health educator with the Sacramento County Health Department.
Jay said his dad and four siblings, the youngest of whom is 15, are racked with worry and struggling without their mother, who they say is the backbone of the family.
Jay and county health officers are warning the public not to use anything similar to the cream in this case.