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Disregarding Half of US Dentists and Ignoring the Environment, ADA Shills for Dental Amalgams

January 08, 2013 | 40,539 views
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By Dr. Mercola

As countries around the globe phase out the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry, citing mounting evidence of significant environmental and human health risks, the United States has stayed mum.

That is, until last November when the American Public Health Association (APHA) issued an incredulous policy statement affirming that dental amalgam is "safe" and its contribution to environmental mercury contamination "minimal."

The policy not only advocates the use of dental amalgam as "safe and effective in treating dental cavities," it goes so far as to say that limiting or curtailing its availability could have negative health consequences, particularly in low-income areas.

Unfortunately, as one of the largest public health associations the APHA has great influence within the World Federation of Public Health Associations, so its position on this issue will be viewed as a broad pronouncement about what is good for the public's health not just within the United States, but also abroad. To add fuel to the fire, the American Dental Association (ADA) has also come out in full support of the APHA's statement.

ADA Still Supports the Use of Dental Amalgam

Out of step with a world trying to replace mercury-based products with non-toxic alternatives, heedless of dentist-members who have rejected amalgam, aware that taxpayers must foot the bill for the pollution caused by pro-mercury dentists, the ADA continues to shill for mercury fillings.

The ADA is also riddled with massive conflicts of interests as it is a former patent-holder of amalgam, and helped draft the current resolution, which could be used to derail worldwide efforts to curtail use of dental amalgam to protect against the devastating ecological damage caused by mercury pollution.

Reportedly, ADA lobbyists presented a sequence of falsehoods to APHA leaders in the resolution they helped draft. The resolution claims that mercury fillings' contribution to overall mercury pollution is "negligible" — when in reality, dentists are the number one purchaser of mercury in America for product use and the number one polluter of mercury into municipal waste water.

The ADA has also historically covered up the fact that the term "silver filling" is profoundly deceptive, as the composite material contains anywhere from 49 to 54 percent mercury, thus should be called mercury fillings not the euphemistic and deceptive term silver filling. At one time they even declared that removing mercury fillings is unethical and many dentists lost their licenses for removing them.

The ADA aided and abetted dental boards to yank licenses from dentists who truthfully told patients that amalgam is mainly mercury and who advised against its use. This was despite the known fact that dental amalgam emits mercury vapor after it is implanted in your mouth, and this mercury bioaccumulates and endangers your health in many ways.

Objection to the resolution inside APHA was reportedly fierce, with opposition expressed at both the public hearing and the Governing Council meeting. Both the Environment, Occupational, and Maternal and Child Health sections urged a no vote, but the ADA political machine won out and is now able to say that the APHA's policy "further vindicates the ADA's own long-standing and scientifically based policy."

Some believe the ADA is actually using APHA's resolution as a way to derail the global World Health Organization's (WHO) new policy to "phase down" amalgam — and influence negotiators who are considering incorporating the WHO policy into a global legally binding treaty on mercury1 when they meet for the final time in Geneva in mid-January.

World Health Organization, European Environmental Bureau Take Clear Stance Against Mercury Amalgam Pollution

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 protections against exposure. The EEB letter came on the heels of a July 2012 European Commission report by BIO Intelligence Service (BIOS),2 which also recommended the phase-out of dental amalgam and mercury in button cell batteries.

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 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 WHO also urges "a switch in use of dental materials" away from amalgam.3 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 Would the ADA Defend a Toxic Dental Product When Safer Alternatives are Readily Available?

The environmental health effects of amalgam are well known and include brain damage and neurological problems, especially for children and the unborn babies of pregnant women. With dental mercury uncontrollably entering the environment from multiple pathways, phasing out amalgam and transitioning to non-mercury alternatives is the only way to reduce – and eventually eliminate – this significant source of mercury that threatens our environment and ultimately our health.

But the ADA has continued to defend their use, even though amalgam fillings contain more mercury than any other product sold in the United States and safer alternatives, such as resin composite, are readily available.

Under a "drill-fill-and-bill" approach that puts profits about patients, amalgam remains popular with dentists who choose not to get training in modern alternatives. Such protection of the economic status quo makes a smooth transition to mercury-free dentistry all the more difficult. Dentists inexperienced with mercury-free alternatives claim they install amalgam fillings much faster than the primary alternative, composite fillings, but nations like Denmark, which has made the transition, discount the claim that amalgam is more efficient. So the rationale – a false one because of the external costs of amalgam – is to give amalgams as a cost-savings for tight healthcare budgets. Low-income and middle-income people, people in third-world countries, and our soldiers – even the pregnant ones – get mercury fillings based on this bogus "efficiency" argument.

The APHA's Policy Statement Isn't Final... Yet

APHA still has time to undo its mistake, as its policy was based on a preliminary vote. The final decision does not come until February, and the importance of APHA getting it right on the issue of dental mercury cannot be overstated. The new policy already has many scratching their heads, wondering how they could get it so wrong... especially since the APHA has long recognized dental amalgam as a source of mercury pollution and environmental harm.

The ADA will undoubtedly continue its crusade to keep dental amalgam – a primitive polluting product -- in the forefront of 21st century dentistry, which is why support for Consumers for Dental Choice, which has worked to educate the government about dental mercury pollution and the many mercury-free alternatives to amalgam, is now more important than ever.

Consumers for Dental Choice leads the battle for mercury-free dentistry both in the U.S. and worldwide. Its financial needs are greater than ever, so we ask for your help! Please consider a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to working for mercury-free dentistry for every child and every adult.

Donations can be made online here. Checks can be mailed to:

Consumers for Dental Choice

316 F St., N.E., Suite 210

Washington DC 20002

Also, for timely updates and information, please join Consumers for Dental Choice on Facebook.

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