By Dr. Mercola
In a letter to European Union (EU) member state representatives and dental experts, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) asked recipients to support a phase-out of the use of mercury in dentistry, both in the EU and around the world.
The EU has been aggressive in both their intent and actions aimed at reducing mercury usage, and even adopted a mercury strategy in 2005, which contains 20 measures to reduce mercury emissions, cut supply and demand and protect against exposure.
The EEB letter comes on the heels of a July 2012 European Commission report by BIO Intelligence Service (BIOS),1 which also recommended the phase-out of dental amalgam and mercury in button cell batteries.
Will the EU Continue to Outpace the U.S. in Protecting Their Citizens from Mercury?
The European Commission has been working to reduce mercury exposure to humans for the past seven years. While the official stand has been that dental amalgam is safe, recent studies suggest otherwise. Sweden has already phased out dental mercury, and several other European countries have either significantly reduced its use or have imposed restrictions on it. The United States has been shockingly slow to respond to mounting evidence of significant harm from dental amalgam.
As the European Commission states:2
"Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at ambient temperature. It is a chemical element and therefore indestructible. This means that there is a "global pool" of mercury circulating in society and the environment - between air, water, sediments, soil and living organisms.
Mercury and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans, animals and ecosystems. High doses can be fatal to humans, but even relatively low doses can seriously affect the nervous system and have been linked with possible harmful effects on the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems.
In the presence of bacteria, mercury can change into methylmercury, its most toxic form. Methylmercury readily passes through both the placenta and the blood-brain barrier, so exposure of women of child-bearing age and of children, is of greatest concern."
The use of mercury fillings is very much an issue of global concern, as once in the environment, dental mercury converts to its even more toxic form, methylmercury, and becomes a major source of accumulated mercury in the fish you eat. So even if you were somehow ok with implanting this toxin directly into your mouth, it's difficult to ignore the environmental ramifications. Mercury from dental amalgam pollutes:
- Water via not only dental clinic releases and human waste (amalgam is by far the largest source of mercury in our wastewater)
- Air via cremation, dental clinic emissions, sludge incineration, and respiration; and
- Soil via landfills, burials, and fertilizer
The fact that amalgam releases so much mercury into the environment is one reason why the World Health Organization (WHO) also urges "a switch in use of dental materials" away from amalgam.3 Although, they, too, noted that dental amalgam raises "general health concerns." The WHO report observed:
"According to the Norwegian Dental Biomaterials Adverse Reaction Unit, the majority of cases of side-effects of dental filling materials are linked with dental amalgam."
Why is This Archaic Practice Still in Use?
Amalgam simply has no place in 21st century dentistry. Yet, a decade ago, as our century dawned, amalgam was riding high. Three powerful institutional forces combined, if not conspired, to keep primacy for amalgam in American dentistry.
One was in state government (the state dental boards), another in the federal government (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA), and the third, a private monopoly (the American Dental Association, or ADA).
The dental boards actually enforced a gag rule that prohibited American dentists from discussing mercury with their patients; in turn, FDA adamantly refused to do its legal duty to issue a rule on amalgam that would have undone the mercury secret -- while the role of the ADA – with its gigantic PAC funds – was to keep much of Congress and many state legislatures in its hip pocket. Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice called these three forces – state dental boards, FDA, ADA – the "Iron Triangle."
Even to this day, most dental patients are not informed that amalgam is 50 percent mercury – many are told that amalgams are "silver fillings" … nor are they informed of the potential risks to their health.
Finally, the momentum toward mercury-free dentistry is gaining speed and, it appears, may be set to become a reality in the 21st century – with continued support.
Those fighting for mercury-free dentistry at the international mercury treaty talks stood alone at the first session, in Stockholm in June 2010. But after building alliances with environmental groups, medical societies and consumer groups, at the second treaty session in Japan, the third in Kenya, and the fourth in Uruguay, those in favor of mercury-free dentistry, led by Consumers for Dental Choice, outflanked, outworked, and outpointed the opposition.
At the fourth treaty session, Consumers for Dental Choice and its World Alliance allies succeeded in keeping amalgam in the draft treaty by emphasizing the known environmental harms caused by amalgam and offering practical solutions. They distributed the landmark economics report The Real Cost of Dental Mercury4 to delegates. This report shows that an amalgam filling can cost up to $87 more than a composite filling once the environmental cost of each material is taken into account.
As a result of this environmental strategy, support from government officials and influential organizations from around the world continues to grow. Consumers for Dental Choice and its World Alliance colleagues have laid the groundwork for future success at the final mercury treaty session in Geneva in January 2013. There, the decision about amalgam (and virtually all other major treaty decisions), will be made. The challenge is great, but I believe we have found the right organization to lead us.
How You Can Support Mercury-Free Dentistry
Right now, you can help progress against dental mercury in two ways:
- Write a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking them to take action against harmful mercury pollution
- Make a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, to help them fight for your right to mercury-free dentistry
EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, has done more to protect us from mercury than all other EPA administrators put together. She has written strong rules addressing mercury in air pollution. When you write, please thank her for her diligent work against mercury, and urge her to turn her attention now to dental mercury, as it is a major source of mercury in the environment.
Please remember that the EPA does not regulate the safety of health products, so do not discuss how amalgam in the mouth is damaging. The EPA's role is to keep toxins out of the environment, so focus your correspondence on the environmental impact of dental mercury. This is where she has the authority to act. Actual letters in the U.S. mail have more impact than emails, so we encourage you to write and mail a letter! Please send it to:
Lisa Jackson, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
If you send an email, send it to Administrator Jackson at: Jackson.LisaP@epa.gov. To get noticed, emails need a good subject line; we recommend something like "Take action against dental mercury."
Consumers for Dental Choice and its allies have made amazing progress against this primitive, polluting mercury product, but the battle is not won yet – dental mercury is still being dumped in nations all around the world… and in your own community. Will you please consider a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry?
Donations are tax-exempt and can be made online at www.toxicteeth.org. Checks can be mailed to:
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210
Washington, DC 20002
Thank you for supporting mercury-free dentistry!