What happened to Mercurochrome?

I didn't Know all this, We used to call it Monkey Medicine!
It was also added to Baby oil as a sunburn/instant tan... LOL
That's Not as Bad as My friend, who I'll never forget walkin out back while she was sunbathing in a 'lil Lepard Bikini, OMG, I Loved this Girly.
Any way, she was using 10W 30W for tanning oil !!! Dana!

What happened to Mercurochrome?
July 23, 2004

Dear Cecil:

I had skin surgery recently and was told to apply Mercurochrome to aid in scarless healing. The product, once widely available, is sold by only one vendor in Boise, and I'm told they manufacture their own. Another pharmacist told me they were not allowed to handle or sell it. What happened to this antiseptic that I grew up with?

— David Young, Boise, Idaho

You're dating yourself, pops. Few under age 30 have ever heard of this stuff. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared that Mercurochrome, generically known as merbromin, was "not generally recognized as safe and effective" as an over-the-counter antiseptic and forbade its sale across state lines. A few traditionalists complained: Whaddya mean, not generally recognized as safe? Moms have been daubing it on their kids' owies since the Harding administration! But the more reasonable reaction was: It's about time.

For many years the FDA, faced with the task of regulating thousands of pharmaceuticals and food additives, many of which long predated federal oversight, has maintained the so-called GRAS (generally recognized etc) list, originally compiled as a way of grandfathering in products like Mercurochrome that had been around for ages and hadn't hurt or killed a noticeable number of people. Recognizing that from a scientific standpoint such a standard left a lot to be desired, the FDA has been whittling away at the unexamined products on the GRAS list over time. Mercurochrome and other drugs containing mercury came up for scrutiny as part of a general review of over-the-counter antiseptics that began in 1978, and for good reason--mercury in large enough doses is a poison that harms the brain, the kidneys, and developing fetuses. While no one's offered evidence of mass Mercurochrome poisoning, the medical literature contains scattered reports of mercury toxicity due to use of the antiseptic, and these days the burden of proof is on drug manufacturers to show that their products' benefits outweigh the risks. In the case of Mercurochrome and many other mercury-containing compounds, that had never been done.

The FDA initially proposed clipping Mercurochrome's GRAS status in 1982 and asked for comment. Hearing little, the FDA classified the antiseptic as a "new drug," meaning that anyone proposing to sell it nationwide had to submit it to the same rigorous approval process required of a drug invented last month. (This took place in 1998--nobody's going to accuse the FDA of rushing to judgment.) It's not out of the question that a pharmaceutical company will do so someday--published research on Mercurochrome, though hardly abundant, suggests the stuff is reasonably effective. However, the approval process is time-consuming and expensive and any patent protection Mercurochrome might once have had surely expired long ago. For the foreseeable future those yearning for that delicious Mercurochrome sting will have to look somewhere else.

Other notes from the mercury wars, as long as we're on the subject:

* Already illegal in some states and municipalities, mercury fever thermometers appear to be headed for history's dustbin. The U.S. Senate approved a federally mandated phase-out in 2002, although the bill didn't make it through the House. Even in jurisdictions where mercury thermometers are still legal, many drugstores are dropping them in favor of the digital electronic type, which are unarguably safer--although you don't get to play with those cool quicksilver globules when they break.
* Despite two decades of controversy and threatened legislative bans, amalgam ("silver") tooth fillings, which are half mercury, are still a mainstay of dentistry. Although some health activists claim the mercury leaches out of the fillings and into the body, the FDA in a 2002 statement reaffirmed the mainstream view, to wit: "No valid scientific evidence has shown that amalgams cause harm to patients with dental restorations, except in the rare case of allergy."
* Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines, is suspected of causing autism and other neurological disorders in children. A recent review by a panel of prominent scientists found no evidence for the much-publicized autism link; nonetheless thimerosal is no longer used in most vaccines, flu shots being the chief exception.
* More than 30 years after the alarm was first raised, mercury accumulation in fish remains the chief source of exposure to the toxic metal in the U.S. The FDA advises that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish entirely and limit consumption of albacore tuna (canned white tuna and tuna steaks) to 6 ounces (one meal) per week. Canned light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish are said to be OK for up to 12 ounces per week. Some say even these guidelines, particularly the one for albacore, are too permissive. I'm not one to encourage the paranoids, but when you look at some of the brain-damaged decisions that get made in this country, often you can't help but think somebody's mom ate too much fish.

— Cecil Adams
Add Photos & Videos

Top Opinion

  • Mollydolly 2008/12/14 05:37:25
    Great post. Funny last sentance. I have methodically been having my metal fillings replaced. I no longer have radio shows playing in my head. The dentists swear that it's ok but I so don't believe it. I remember when i was a kid the dentist let me play with the mercury before he mixed it. I can still taste the stuff in my mouth. I am sorry to see the thermomitors go. Always thought they were pretty cool. Surprised about mecurichrome. Had no idea it contained the stuff. My grandfather, a dentist, used to put in on my cold sores. no wonder I'm loopy. lol

Sort By
  • Most Raves
  • Least Raves
  • Oldest
  • Newest

  • ed campbell 2014/12/20 22:33:09
    ed campbell
    Oh the evils of mercury...remove that awful mercurochrome that actually worked as an antiseptic, but hey! Let's put it directly into our bodies in our teeth as fillings and let's put it in vaccines that go directly into the blood stream and lets put it in light bulbs where when they break, can send small particles all over the place and need hazmat suits to clean it up....that also emit vapors that are so dangerous the warning label says not to read or sit near one, great ideas, huh? How dumb are people? As dumb as they want to be.
  • Lucille 2011/09/24 12:49:46
    My mom used mercurochrome for more than just cuts and abrasions. You could find it on any drug store shelf, but the pharmacist would also dispense 5% mercurochrome in a little glass bottle. I still have the last bottle she had. It will cure a sore throat in no time! Just dip a long swab in the bottle and "paint" the back of your tongue as far back as you can. Repeat if needed every few hours. I just used it last week and it works like a charm.
  • ktovorn... Lucille 2014/11/04 21:53:26
    ktovornik .
    I have a bottle of clear mercurochrome that I bought about a year or two ago. I don't care what they say...it's the best thing for mouth sores, sore throat (you are correct!) or even cuts. I was happy that it wasn't that red that stained everything, but it works just as well. I can't find it anywhere now, which makes me sad. I don't know if it expires, but I refuse to get rid of this little bottle because it works! (your post made me smile!!)
  • Tokengimp 2011/07/09 21:44:59
    Bummer, I think Mercurochrome got a bad rap because there never was an infection after application. We even had a small bottle of Mercury at home which I brought to school for show and tell. All my classmates played with it learning it's remarkable traits, like you could float lead in it. Yes, we played with lead bars too. It bent easily and melted quickly into shapes with propane torch. Thinking of the handfuls of mercury we played with shining coins and Mercurochrome painted over our wounds for so many years we are all lucky to be alive. Of course back then we didn't wear helmets riding bike, seat belts while driving and often got into BB gun fights. The good old days...

    I'm surprised it didn't find an advocate like Iodine at least for limited applications. Thinking of Iodine a nutrient which is so important to our thyroid which affects our bodies in so many ways. Many may still be unknown! (or maybe known by Pharm houses that would rather sell their snake oil.)

    Merthiolate and Iodine weren't as much fun. They stung badly!
  • JanetWeigand 2010/06/14 14:25:21
    like I said, when I was a little little girl my parents tried to use that red staining stinking stuff on me. Im glad I was an independant, standup for myself thinker because I refused to let them use that on me. I say were is the Bactine you tight wads!
  • Kathy Slinkard 2009/06/01 03:10:50
    Kathy Slinkard
    Where in Boise, Idaho, can you still get the Mercurochrome? Oddly, after generations of use by my family, 5 that I know of, we have all survived with minimal effect. I have a bottle that I bought in 1995 from Wall Drugs. It's almost gone. Nothing takes the soreness out of a cut like that product. It's not like I'm drinking the stuff. I'd like to have some for my grandchildren. Thanks, Kathy
  • ktovorn... Kathy S... 2014/11/04 21:57:31
    ktovornik .
    I found some on ebay, but I'm not sure if it's the same. I still have a bottle of clear that I bought about 1-2 years ago...and I refuse to throw it away. It is the best for cold sores! I put it on at night and they are better in the morning. I use it sparingly because I know when it's gone, it's gone.
  • tibetsun 2008/12/16 21:41:39
    My mother used this on us as children. You never find out, till years later, of the hazzards of anything.
  • MJ 2008/12/15 22:47:16
    First thing that sends up a red flag is the FDA. I saw an episode of 60 minutes a couple of years ago where a senior research scientist for the FDA came forward in a "whistle-blowing" way and told how the FDA has two branches - research and administrative (this being the YEA or NAY saying branch). The latter has the final say on approval and rejection of medications regardless of the findings of the research branch! When it was discovered that the red dye used in the coloring of hot dogs was a carcinogen, the administrative branch (after years of haggling and bickering) quietly noted the cancerous potential of hot dogs with the red dye and ordered manufacturers to cut the amount of red dye by 50%!!! Then there are the pharmaceutical companies and their war-chests of lobbying money who can get the “administrators” to approve dubious or outright dangerous drugs (so the Governor of Illinois isn’t a lone wolf!). Bottom line is, not only is the FDA an overgrown and out-of-control agency that takes forever to approve something proven by scientists and doctors world-wide to be safe and beneficial; they’ll sell their souls to approve dangerous drugs as well!

    Either way, I’m glad Mercurochrome is gone; we found very early in my childhood that I have a deathly allergy to it!
  • Cookie Bone 2008/12/14 19:15:07 (edited)
    Cookie Bone
    That's really odd that I was just thinking the other day "I wonder what ever happened to Mercurochrome and Merthiolate?" I was trying to remember which one was the one that hurt the least. I know one was less sting-y than the other. --Must have heard you thinking about that. odd thinking mercurochrome merthiolate remember hurt sting-y heard thinking
  • Luis De... Cookie ... 2011/07/03 20:59:10
    Luis De La Paz
    Hi,... no doubt about it. Mercurochrome was painless and merthiolate had a soft pink color and stung like a mother!
  • ktovorn... Cookie ... 2014/11/04 21:58:21
    ktovornik .
    Mercurochrome did NOT sting...merthiolate did, though. I was lucky my parents used mercurochrome.
  • BOOGIE-WOOGIE-MUSIC-MAN-ROC... 2008/12/14 18:45:25
    Since they took away all of my old favorites, I bought this book

    favorites book

    and this book

    favorites book book
  • Barefoot Peace and Love∞ijm... 2008/12/14 13:03:20
    Barefoot Peace and Love∞ijm♥☮♥∞
    Excellent information, I love the last sentence. DUH so true. Thanks for sharing excellent information love sentence duh true sharing
  • chrissy112778 2008/12/14 12:23:28
    I am 30 and remember mercurichrome and merthiolate...was always used on my sister and I when we got cuts. I remember dreading that "orange stuff"! I hated it when I saw my mom coming with that little bottle LOL. I wondered what happened to them also.
  • Cal ~ Pegleg4570 ~ 2008/12/14 11:10:23
    Cal ~ Pegleg4570 ~
    Mercurochrome,and Calamine Lotion were the Cure All's of our Day !



    mercurochromeand calamine lotion cure alls httpwww yourememberthat
  • Barefoo... Cal ~ P... 2008/12/14 13:03:42
    Barefoot Peace and Love∞ijm♥☮♥∞
    Don't we know it...................
  • Tokengimp Cal ~ P... 2011/07/09 21:45:53
    Don't forget Castor Oil...
  • Mollydolly 2008/12/14 05:37:25
    Great post. Funny last sentance. I have methodically been having my metal fillings replaced. I no longer have radio shows playing in my head. The dentists swear that it's ok but I so don't believe it. I remember when i was a kid the dentist let me play with the mercury before he mixed it. I can still taste the stuff in my mouth. I am sorry to see the thermomitors go. Always thought they were pretty cool. Surprised about mecurichrome. Had no idea it contained the stuff. My grandfather, a dentist, used to put in on my cold sores. no wonder I'm loopy. lol
  • Warren - Novus Ordo Seclorum 2008/12/14 05:21:00
    Warren - Novus Ordo Seclorum
    All my "boo-boos" were made better with a little mercurchrome and a band-aid when I was a kid.

About Me



Charlotte, NC, US

2008/03/18 23:18:53

Been busy, chasing a closing Date, I think we're gettin Close.

View complete profile

Hot Questions on SodaHead
More Hot Questions

More Community More Originals

The Latest From SodaHead