By Dr. Mercola
Henry Schein Inc., the largest seller of dental amalgam (mercury fillings, and a flu vaccine seller as well), has been hit with multiple lawsuits that highlight how little regard this company appears to have for public health and the environment.
Once in your body, mercury, a neurotoxin, can harm your nervous system to differing degrees, depending on how much mercury you've accumulated in your body.
At above-average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly.
A single amalgam filling may release as much as 15 micrograms of mercury per day, and according to some estimates, 10 micrograms per day is average.
Despite the known health and environmental risks, about half of US dentists are still implanting this toxic metal into their patients' teeth (with the approval of the American Dental Association, or ADA).
Mercury fillings also remain popular in China and India due to their low cost and widespread availability, and the industry is pushing for its growth, including in North America, despite their known dangers.1
Lawsuits Allege Henry Schein May Be Intentionally Putting Public Health in Jeopardy
Three complaints filed against Henry Schein allege the company and its top executives misrepresented their intentions when working with a former business partner, Ken Rosenblood, who works to bring dental offices into compliance with US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations and OSHA standards for infection control.
Henry Schein induced Rosenblood to bring them into a deal to buy two health compliance companies, which Rosenblood believed they were buying to help create a "one-stop compliance solution for dentists, practice-based healthcare, and Henry Schein."2
The complaints allege, however, that Henry Schein bought the companies not to grow them and improve compliance but to bury them "in order to protect their existing profit centers that put patient health and safety at needless risk."3 As reported by Business Wire:4
"These lawsuits allege that Henry Schein wanted nothing to do with improved safety and compliance solutions because they disrupt and threaten the profits of its existing business model.
The complaints allege that Ken Rosenblood discovered, after joining forces with Henry Schein, Inc., that Henry Schein's business interests are often completely opposed to the product lines they purchased with Rosenblood and that were developed by Rosenblood.
The complaints allege Henry Schein did not want to expose their customers to Ken Rosenblood's cutting edge compliance technology, because Schein offered competing products of lower quality that they were more interested in selling.
The complaints allege that Schein would not put Rosenblood's innovative products in their catalogue because they conflict with its other purposes.
Because of Henry Schein's actions, the complaints allege how potentially the public health, the public trust, public well-being, and integrity of our water supply are in jeopardy because the dental supply giant tried to keep information from the public."
Amalgam Separators Could Drastically Cut Down on Mercury Pollution, but Aren't Required
In the US, dentist offices are the largest source of mercury in wastewater entering publicly owned treatment works. And dental amalgam continues to be the leading intentional use of mercury in the US, accounting for between 35 percent and 57 percent of mercury consumption.
Dental mercury pollution enters the water via human waste disposal and dental clinic releases. It enters the land via landfills, human burials, and fertilizer. And it enters the air from dental clinic emissions and waste incineration.
Seven to nine metric tons of mercury per year escape into the atmosphere during cremations alone, and it is estimated that, left unchecked, crematoria will be the largest single cause of mercury pollution by 2020. Consumers for Dental Choice explained:
"After amalgam enters the environment, certain microorganisms can change its elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that builds up in fish, shellfish, and people that eat fish.
That is why the European Union's environmental health committee, SCHER, calls amalgam a 'secondary poison.' The U.S. EPA concurs, noting that, methylmercury can damage children's developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born."
There's a simple, relatively inexpensive solution that could drastically cut down on the environmental pollution from mercury waste, if only dentists would choose to use it — amalgam separators. Estimates are that separators would reduce mercury emissions by nine tons each year. The average cost to a dental office using a separator is just $700 per year.
Did Henry Schein Bury Amalgam Separator Solutions?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule that would require all US dentists to install amalgam separators, which was initially expected to be finalized in September 2015 but has been postponed until the summer of 2016.5
The best solution would be to eliminate mercury from dentistry altogether, but until this happens, separators would at least lessen the environmental burden. It's alleged, however, that Henry Schein is opposed to even this simple environmental protection. Those involved in the lawsuits reported:6
"According to the complaint filed, Ken Rosenblood's Compliance solutions and Amalgam separator solutions were buried by Henry Schein. Then Henry Schein terminated Rosenblood leaving Henry Schein profiting and in control.
Henry Schein and the many companies it owns or controls make up a near dominant supplier to dental practices in the United States. Henry Schein claims to be a responsible corporate parent. Yet in their own backyard of dentistry they are fumbling on their own website. According to Rosenblood, Henry Schein's compliance efforts have not kept up with the times.
No webinars on compliance, no basic information live online to help the practice comply. It may be the excusable incompetence of a bumbling, huge Fortune 300 company
After all, they are busy trying to remain the largest global supplier to dentistry. But according to the complaint Rosenblood filed, Henry Schein is intentionally stifling the improvement of practice based health care compliance where it is so badly needed in order to protect their own status quo as industry leader."
Henry Schein Used Government Connections to Keep Americans in the Dark About Mercury Filling Risks
The suits further allege:7
"Henry Schein has been steadfastly working to minimize disclosure of amalgam health risks to the public, if not hide them outright. They were actively fighting against further regulation of dental amalgam through their insider at the FDA, former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who came to the job straight from the Henry Schein Board of Directors."
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced that she would be stepping down as commissioner at the end of March 2015.
Many are not aware that Hamburg entered the FDA through the revolving government/private industry door after allegedly making millions as the director of Henry Schein – and it seems evident that Schein used this connection to its advantage. To get appointed, Hamburg was required to sign an agreement promising:
- To sell her Schein stock and stock options
- Not to participate in regulatory matters affecting Schein while owning these options
Sign she did, but she apparently had her fingers crossed. Selling her stock, Hamburg retained her stock options, which in a few weeks gained from being "under water" (no value) to having market value. Promising to cut her ties with Schein, she allegedly continued regular correspondence with Schein's general counsel on her private e-mail.
Hamburg took office as Commissioner in May 2009. Charlie Brown, director of Consumers for Dental Choice, wrote her June 1, 2009 to inquire whether she had recused (disqualified) herself from working on an upcoming amalgam rule. Not even answering, she convened a meeting with the ADA's "best friend" at the FDA, dentist Susan Runner. On July 1, in a meeting whose notes are heavily expunged from public records requests, Henry Schein alumna Hamburg and pro-amalgam dentist Runner put together a disgraceful rule on amalgam.
It allowed continued concealment of the mercury within, buried the warnings for children and unborn children so deep in the rule no one would find them, and allowed Runner to be the FDA's spokesperson to proclaim amalgam safe. At the end of July, Runner unveiled this monstrosity of a rule and, immediately after Runner's announcement, Schein's general counsel wrote Hamburg that Schein is "indebted" to her for her work as Commissioner.
Hamburg was still holding Schein stock options until July 27, the day before the FDA rule was announced. The FDA agreed that Margaret Hamburg had an ethical problem that led to her recusal, but neither she nor anyone else at the FDA would say what work she did on the rule or when she stopped working on it.
Mercury Fillings Pose Dangers to Humans and the Environment Across the Board
Mercury poses dangers to humans and the environment across the board – from mining and manufacturing to implementation and disposal. Last year, for instance, journalist Chu Han wrote about his visit to Wanshan, China — an area that once held the largest mercury reserve in Asia.8 The mine was closed in 2001 after 600 years of mercury mining, but the human and environmental effects still reverberate. There, in the "mercury capital" of China, former miners still suffer from high rates of mercury poisoning, along with other societal ills rooted in poor health and environmental toxicity. As reported by Han:
"In the village of Xiachangxi, Wu Congyu, 40, sits watching two children. The rice in the fields is growing well and in a few months it'll be sold to traders who come for the harvest. But Wu and her family haven't eaten the rice they grow for seven years – they started to notice black spots on the grain, or empty hulls.
That was the same year the stream they use for irrigation turned dark. The pollution was coming from Wanshan... The Wanshan Environmental Protection Bureau has previously told the National Business Daily that land on the banks of the stream contains 278.5mg of mercury per kilogram, compared to a standard of 1.5mg per kilogram."
As noted in an extensive scientific review about mercury and children's health, there is no known safe level of exposure for mercury.9 In April 2015, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) issued their final opinion on dental amalgam and recommended the use of mercury-free dental fillings instead of amalgam for children's primary teeth. They added, according to Consumers for Dental Choice:
"The use of amalgam restorations is not indicated in primary teeth, in patients with mercury allergies, and persons with chronic kidney diseases with decreased renal clearance… To reduce the use of mercury-added products in line with the intentions of the Minamata Convention (reduction of mercury in the environment) and under the above mentioned precautions, it can be recommended that for the first treatment of primary teeth in children and for pregnant patients, alternative materials to amalgam should be the first choice."
Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has admitted that fetuses, breast-fed babies, and children under 6 are at risk from amalgam fillings:
"The developing neurological systems in fetuses and young children may be more sensitive to the neurotoxic effects of mercury vapor. Very limited to no clinical information is available regarding long-term health outcomes in pregnant women and their developing fetuses, and children under the age of six, including infants who are breastfed."
Help Support Mercury-Free Dentistry
The use of amalgam for fillings not only pollutes our mouths, it also pollutes our environment. We need to end the use of dental amalgam – a primitive, pre-Civil War pollutant that leads to cracked teeth – for three reasons:
- The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the game-changer for dental amalgam. Each nation that signs this comprehensive treaty against mercury pollution – now numbering over 100, including the United States – commits itself to scaling down dental mercury without delay.
- Consumers for Dental Choice, which spearheads the campaign against amalgam, brings the Minamata Convention home. Commissioning a Zogby poll, they issued a scathing indictment of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for covering up amalgam's mercury from American parents and consumers – and for putting the US government out of compliance with the pledge it made at Minamata.
- Your financial support for Consumers for Dental Choice is now needed. Working with talented environmental, consumer, and health leaders, Consumers for Dental Choice is launching phase out campaigns in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They have redoubled their efforts in the US, via a brilliant campaign strategy.
Important Information About Amalgam Removal
For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend having them very carefully removed by a competent biological dentist. It's very important to have it done correctly. Removing amalgam fillings can expose you to significant amounts of mercury vapor if your dentist doesn't do it properly.
For this reason, it's important to find a qualified biological dentist who is trained in safe amalgam removal. When amalgams are removed, a large amount of mercury is released, and if the proper precautions aren't taken, your body can absorb a massive dose of mercury, which can lead to acute kidney problems.
I experienced this myself more than 20 years ago when I had my amalgams removed by a non-biological dentist. Biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your body, and any medical treatments performed take this fact into account. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as amalgams. Some of the steps that need to be taken to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:
| Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth
||Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins, and using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor
|Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors
||Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal)
|Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed
||Using room air purifiers
Resources to Help You Find a Biological Dentist
The following organizations can help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist:
What's Lurking in Your Silver Fillings?
It's estimated that 75 percent of Americans are ignorant about that fact that amalgam fillings are actually 50 percent mercury, and this is no accident. The American Dental Association (ADA) popularized the deceptive term "silver fillings" so consumers would think amalgam is made mainly of silver when actually it has twice as much mercury as silver.
Mercury is an incredibly potent neurotoxin; it doesn't take much to cause serious damage because it's an absolute poison. If you were to take the amount of mercury in a typical thermometer and put it in a small lake, that lake would be closed down due to environmental hazards. Yet, amounts much higher than that are readily put into your mouth if you receive a "silver" amalgam dental filling, as the majority of material in the filling is actually mercury.
Download your free copy of Measurably Misleading and learn how the FDA and dental industry are misleading consumers and why that's bad for American families and our planet.
We believe in inspiring progress – and nowhere is the progress more evident than the work of Consumers for Dental Choice and its Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry. So consider donating your funds where you know it will get results. Consumers for Dental Choice take the Holistic Approach to Advocacy. You wouldn’t go to traditional dentist who uses mercury amalgam fillings. So why would you go to a traditional activist to fight for mercury-free dentistry? That’s why so many people, including myself, support Consumers for Dental Choice’s holistic approach to advocacy.
Together, Let's Help Charlie Brown and Consumers for Dental Choice Get to the Finish Line
Let's help Consumers for Dental Choice get the funding it deserves. I have found few NGOs as effective, and none as efficient, as Consumers for Dental Choice. Its small team has led the charge on six continents – including ours! So I am stepping up with the challenge.
For the fifth year in a row, I will match the funds you give. In 2012 the match was up to $50,000 – and you did it! In 2013, I upped the ante to $75,000 – and you did it again! This year, I believed a $100,000 match was the right thing to do but we never reached the goal. Total donations received were $90,000 when we ran the campaign in August 2015. We are now reopening the collection to try to attain the goal. Let's try to push them over the edge this week. You generous donation can help end the use of dental mercury!