An Investigation of Mercury Poisoning and Home Contamination: Success throu...

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Online webinar

BC Centre for Disease Control

Canada

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An Investigation of Mercury Poisoning and Home Contamination: Success through multi-sectoral collaboration

Presenters:
Lori Holmes, Huron Perth Public Health
Sunil Varughese, Public Health Ontario
Vince Spilchuk, Public Health Ontario

Abstract:

Cosmetics, such as skin creams containing mercury, have long been used in several countries for skin-lightening, anti-aging and acne treatment effects. The harmful effects of mercury to human health are well known. Although many countries including Canada have restricted its use in cosmetics to protect the public from mercury exposure, production and subsequent access to these products continues to occur.

The following presentation will outline a recent case of mercury poisoning in an infant that led to a collaborative public health investigation involving provincial, federal and international public health stakeholders. Through the investigation, a foreign-manufactured artisanal cosmetic skin cream, containing elevated levels of mercury, was identified as the source. A subsequent on-site public health investigation was initiated by a local public health unit to assess potential health risks and further sources of contamination within a family’s home and subsequent decontamination. This case is unlikely to be an isolated occurrence in Canada since the public health risks associated with personal importing and use of mercury-containing cosmetic skin cream are often overlooked by both the public and healthcare providers due to low awareness and the non-reportable nature of heavy metal poisoning. This investigation highlights that cosmetic mercury exposure may be more common than previously thought and public health interventions are critical to reduce the risk of exposure to an identified health hazard.

Presenter Bio:

Lori Holmes, Huron Perth Public Health

Lori Holmes has been working as a certified public health inspector for 14 years. She graduated with an Honours Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from McMaster University in 2003 and obtained her Bachelor of Applied Science in Occupational and Public Health from Ryerson University in 2005. She received her certificate in public health inspection from the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors in November 2005 and is currently employed with Huron Perth Public Health as a Public Health Manager in the Environmental Health Program. Throughout her career Lori has focused primarily on environmental health issues ranging from environmental contamination and vector borne disease to extreme temperatures.

Sunil Varughese, Public Health Ontario


Sunil Varughese has been an Environmental Health Analyst with the Environmental and Occupational Health team at Public Health Ontario since 2012. He received his HBSc in Toxicology from the University of Toronto and MSc in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene from the University of British Columbia. Previously, he has worked as a Scientist at WSIB and as an Occupational Hygienist at the WHO in Guyana, South America. His current work involves assessing community exposure to a variety of agents including radiofrequency, indoor air pollutants in ice arenas, and mercury.

Vince Spilchuk, Public Health Ontario

Vince Spilchuk is a physician with speciality designations in Internal Medicine and Occupational Medicine. He maintains an academic clinical practice in the role of Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Occupational Medicine at U of T, at the Occupational Medicine clinic at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. He also works part time at PHO in the role of Occupational Medicine Consultant on the EOH team, as well as in a variety of other roles in industry, workers’ compensation, and health care in Ontario.

Date and Time

Location

Online webinar

BC Centre for Disease Control

Canada

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