A proposed class action alleges Pond’s Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream, made, sold and advertised by Unilever in Mexico, contains “toxic and illegal” levels of mercury. Filed in Texas federal court, the lawsuit claims consumers who have used Unilever’s skin-lightening anti-aging product brought into the United States from Mexico, particularly in areas that border the country, have suffered from mercury toxicity, which can devastate the nervous system and cause other health issues.
The inclusion of mercury in skin-lightening products is either banned or heavily restricted in the United States, European Union, Canada and the Philippines, the lawsuit explains. While the European Union has outright banned the inclusion of mercury in skin-lightening products, the United States limits concentration levels to the equivalent of 0.0001 percent, or one part per million, allowable only when it is impossible for a manufacturer to make a product without the element, according to the suit. Mexico, the case says, has no such restrictions on including mercury in skin-lightening creams.
As the suit tells it, Unilever’s daily-use Pond’s Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream (Crema Antiarrugas) has gained “special fame and reputation” in Mexico due to its effectiveness in counteracting signs of aging. The lawsuit provides that the product has become so popular in Mexico that while 200 grams of Rejuveness retails for approximately $11.72 in the United States, the same size container with the same branding costs more than $90 south of the border. Unfortunately, areas of the U.S. that border Mexico have seen a disproportionally higher uptick in cases of mercury poisoning than other parts of the country, the lawsuit says, with the Centers for Disease Control issuing a report as recently as last month on an incident of methylmercury toxicity.
The plaintiff, a Boerne, Texas fitness instructor, claims she began to notice around 2012 “a gradual deterioration in her general health.” Though she maintained an active and healthy lifestyle, the suit says, the plaintiff experienced prolonged headaches, memory loss, reduced energy, extreme fatigue, limb paresthesia and anxiety, with her symptoms worsening over time.
After what the case describes as “many months and years of prolonged suffering,” the plaintiff saw a Spanish-language news segment around September 2019 that told the story of a Southern California woman who became comatose due to her use of mercury-containing facial cream from Mexico.
“When the news crew showed a picture of the specific cosmetic product, [the plaintiff] recognized it immediately as the one she had been using for years,” the case reads. “It was a small container of Pond’s Rejuveness anti-aging cream.”
The plaintiff then sent her container of Unilever’s product to a lab, which found it contained mercury, the suit continues. Repeated blood testing showed the plaintiff’s blood had a mercury concentration of 140 parts per million, whereas the normal range is zero and 11 parts per million is considered highly toxic, the lawsuit says. According to the suit, the plaintiff has begun a recovery process that’s been slowed by how high the concentration of mercury was in her blood, and still experiences upper extremity weakness and other symptoms.
The plaintiff claims that her container of Pond’s Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle cream was produced at a facility in Mexico. The product’s container did not disclose that it contained mercury, the lawsuit says, or feature any warning against its use if the protective seal was not intact. Unilever failed to properly label the cream, the suit charges, despite being aware of “multiple cases” in which products made in Mexico were found to contain mercury. The lawsuit alleges Unilever “knows of mercury’s dubious origins as a skin-bleaching agent” and could possibly use this knowledge to “intentionally exploit law regulations” in non-U.S. countries to manufacture mercury-containing products.