Charlie Brown, president and founder of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry and national counsel of Consumers for Dental Choice, works tirelessly to educate the public about the health and environmental dangers of mercury fillings and to ensure more effective government oversight on amalgam.
In the video interview above, Brown reports on the worldwide efforts to eliminate mercury fillings, and explains how you can help make a difference.
Charlie Brown is one of the leaders in the movement to eliminate mercury from dental fillings, and he shared some exciting updates during our recent interview -- updates that really show what can happen when a group of concerned citizens unite for a common cause.
We have been working alongside Charlie Brown for over a year to help eliminate the use of mercury in U.S. dentistry -- and now it seems our hard work, including your continued efforts at making your voices heard -- is beginning to pay off.
A Worldwide Effort to Eliminate Mercury Fillings
In February 2009, Obama endorsed negotiations for a new global treaty on mercury pollution. The most important issue today in the amalgam battle centers on this upcoming world mercury treaty.
The United Nations has convened a series of five conferences to put together the environmental treaty on mercury, a treaty that represents a chance for the world to rid itself of amalgam, and rid dentistry of mercury. The treaty's central question: What are we going to do about the ever-growing problem of worldwide mercury contamination?
The first session was in June 2010, the second in Japan in January 2011, the third coming up in Africa and two more conferences will be held over the next three years. (View the first session report here.)
The end-goal is the signing of a legally binding mercury treaty in 2013. As Brown stated:
"There are five sessions that the world is convening for. Diplomacy is slow, the barriers, a lot of "Thank you sirs, thank you ma'ams," as you talk. But it is five sessions around the world, one continent after another, until they've hammered out a treaty. We are about to go to the third session in Africa and we now have breakthroughs even with our government in the United States.
Clearly … the people that listen and respond to you [Dr. Mercola] have written the United States government and that message has gotten across. Our government has really changed its position on amalgam and very much for the better."
U.S. Government Agencies Finally Take a Stand Against Dental Mercury
According to Charlie Brown, who gave the opening statement at the treaty's first meeting, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been far behind the rest of the world in stepping up to the plate to reduce mercury … until now. He says:
"The U.S. State Department has announced to the world that the United States favors the end of amalgam. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced … that they will regulate dental mercury for the first time. They will put rules on the release of dental mercury, which the pro-mercury dentists felt they could just dump down the drain and hand the bill to the taxpayers … to clean it up.
The Food and Drug Administration, they signed on to this statement. It gives them credit. They didn't veto the statement that says we need an end to amalgam. They didn't veto the statement, which also said, and this is quite promising, that the world should no longer allow amalgam for pregnant women and children.
That is, as we phase it out … we stop its use for the most vulnerable, the children and pregnant women. The Food and Drug Administration let that statement go."
The new U.S. position calls for a "phase down" of mercury fillings, followed by an "eventual" phase out. The State Department's submission to the Mercury International Negotiation Committee also called for:
- Educating patients and parents (about amalgam) in order to protect children and fetuses
- Training of dental professionals on the environmental impacts of mercury in dental amalgams
This is an incredible turn of events that brings us one step closer to mercury-free dentistry for all, but the fight is far from over. Brown says:
"They [FDA] signed on to that statement, internationally, but they haven't yet come to the table at home. They haven't yet [made] a rule to say pregnant women and children, at least, should not get amalgam. We look forward to that happening, but, of course, we know that that won't happen without citizen pressure and citizen input that's been a key to a change in our U.S. government position."
The American Dental Association Fights Back
The American Dental Association (ADA) continues to give amalgam (mercury) fillings their seal of approval, stating:
"Used by dentists for more than a century, dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials. For those reasons, it remains a valued treatment option for dentists and their patients."
The ADA is also among those pro-mercury forces who are asking for an exemption to the worldwide environmental treaty on mercury so they may keep selling amalgam indefinitely. As Brown stated:
"The ADA and its world ally, the World Dental Federation, will be in Africa lobbying. They're lobbying the State Department to back off what it's done. Their cloud is enormous. Their money is enormous and they've got members everywhere.… The ADA is far from done on this. They're secretly working, but there's a real sense of panic there. I think they see the beginning of the end."
A Step in a New Direction for the FDA
Meanwhile, there are signs that the FDA may soon have to acknowledge the dangers of amalgam and overturn their abysmal 2009 rule, which gave no warnings to patients, not even young women and parents of young children, that the mercury from the amalgam fillings is a reproductive toxin and a neurotoxin.
The 2009 FDA rule even gave the amalgam industry the green light to sell and place amalgam without disclosing to consumers that the fillings are mainly mercury, even though the agency was, and is, aware of the industry's long-time deceptive practice of marketing amalgam as "silver fillings."
The first step in a more positive direction was the uncovering of FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg's relationship with the nation's top amalgam seller, Henry Schein.
Dr. Hamburg served on the board of dental products colossus Henry Schein Inc., drawing an annual income of a quarter million dollars a year, according to the Wall Street Journal. In May 2009, when she took office as Commissioner, she was still holding Henry Schein stock options, which she did not cash until July, the month the amalgam rule issued. In fact, she 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.The next sign of positive changes was that the FDA agreed to convene a panel of scientists in December 2010 to review the issue once again. The scientists told the FDA to tell U.S. dental patients, starting right now, that amalgam is mainly mercury, and to tell U.S. dentists to stop giving amalgam to children.
They also recommended that the FDA come up with models that show the effects of mercury vapor exposure from dental fillings, as well as review more data on the impact of these fillings on children and fetuses. Just three weeks after those hearings came the resignation of FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, who approved the 2009 FDA rule on mercury fillings that flew in the face of science. The man in charge of the mercury issue at the FDA now is Dr. Jeff Shuren, who is director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and there are signs that he may be just the man for the job. Brown said:
"I think that Dr. Shuren has shown some very good signs. He did agree to reconsider the rule. We had some excellent hearings last December with the scientists. The scientists told the FDA to reverse course and stop amalgam right now for pregnant women and children. Dr. Shuren himself attended those hearings when he didn't need to; he could have had staff do it. He's gone out in the field to have hearings. I think all those are promising."
What You Can Do to Support the Anti-Amalgam Movement
We are on the brink of prompting real change in the fight for mercury-free dentistry, and this is largely because of readers like you who have taken the time to write to the FDA to let your voice be heard on this issue. I'm confident we'll be successful, ultimately, but there's still more work to be done.
As Brown stated:
"We're definitely seeing a change in tone in the FDA. We now need a change in substance. We need them to actually change their rule and we're not there yet. We're not there at the treaty, we're not there at the FDA but the public in America is rising up."
So what can you do to keep the momentum going and further catalyze the transition to mercury-free dentistry? If you live in the United States and have a few extra minutes, please take a moment to write a letter really thanking Jeff Shuren for what he's done. Dr. Shuren has yet to change the rule at the FDA, but he has signed on to the international statement, and as Brown noted, "he's actually out in the field holding field hearings, listening to people."
Here's the key: we don't want it to be a template letter -- we want it to be from your heart, a passionate, empathetic, and individualized response. We really need to give him some strong, personalized letters that will make him aware of the amount of concern the public has about this issue.
So please let your voice be heard. You can write and thank Jeff Shuren at Jeff.Shuren@fda.hhs.gov.
The other action you can take is to contribute to Consumers for Dental Choice. So far they've ensured that amalgam is listed in the first draft of the international treaty as one of five products to be addressed, and they are introducing strategies for phasing out mercury fillings while exposing the risks of implanting mercury into human teeth.
With the third round of negotiations right around the corner in October 2011, they need your help to gear up for their biggest global challenge yet. As Brown said:
"We are there on the world stage, fighting the pro-mercury filling lobbyists. We need help: we need to get to Africa to the next meeting. We need to do work with low-income countries, island nations, and African nations to do the transition. We would be honored and we very much need your help."
To donate now, visit Consumers for Dental Choice at ToxicTeeth.org.
A Special Call to Action for Readers in Canada
If you live in Canada, please also take a moment to share your anti-amalgam sentiments with the Minister for Environment Canada, Peter Kent. As Brown said:
"Canada's an incredible country and it's time their leaders in Ottawa stood up to the pro-mercury amalgam industry, which they're not now and not doing at all."
You can contact Peter Kent at:
The Honourable Peter Kent
Minister of the Environment
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Whether you live in the United States or Canada, please join Charlie and me in keeping the pressure on our governments to prompt real change to get mercury out of dental fillings. Grassroots activism is making a difference, and it will continue to do so because of dedicated readers like you! It nearly brings tears to my eyes to see that we can make a difference and start to save children and adults from brain damage by limiting their exposure to this toxic poison.