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Story at-a-glance -

  • Hair concentrations of mercury have long been assumed to come only from fish consumption, but new research suggests hair mercury concentrations may be the result of diverse sources of exposure, including dental mercury
  • The research team developed new analytical capabilities that allowed them to identify different sources of mercury in hair at concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per million (ppm)
  • The study revealed that one person’s spike in mercury levels could be traced back to unsafe removal of a mercury filling
  • Mercury fillings should only be removed by a qualified biological dentist who is familiar with the processes for safe removal

By Dr. Mercola

Mercury is toxic to human health and the environment. It poses an especially significant risk when exposure occurs in utero or in early life, but even adults may suffer from toxic effects on their nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as damage to the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes, depending on exposure.1

Mercury in the environment is primarily the result of human activities, including coal-fired power stations, mining and waste incineration. Once released, elemental mercury transforms into methylmercury and bioaccumulates in seafood.

As a result, one of the main sources of human exposure to mercury is believed to be consumption of contaminated seafood, along with inhalation of mercury vapors that may occur if you work in certain industries.

Such risks are clearly on the radar of public health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends “interventions to prevent environmental releases and human exposure …”2

This makes it all the more outrageous that mercury, known as amalgam in the dental industry, is still being used in dentistry for the purposes of filling cavities — even in vulnerable populations and despite the fact that safer and widely available alternatives exist.

It has also been difficult to pinpoint the origins of mercury toxicity within an individual, but new research has cleared up this mystery, including showing concrete evidence of the damage mercury fillings may pose to your health.

New Research Reveals Origins of Mercury Contamination in Human Hair

In humans, mercury contamination from seafood consumption (methylmercury) is typically evaluated by measuring hair mercury concentration while exposure to mercury from other sources (elemental and inorganic mercury) is typically measured by analyzing blood or urine.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology revealed, however, that hair mercury concentrations may be the result of diverse sources of exposure, including dental mercury.3

The research team developed new analytical capabilities that allowed them to identify different sources of hair mercury at concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per million (ppm). Study author Jean-Paul Bourdineaud, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Bordeaux, France, told

"Although urinary mercury concentration is considered to be the most accurate and widely used biomarker for assessing chronic exposure to mercury vapor and divalent mercury, we showed that inorganic mercury from dental amalgams can be detected in hair with distinct intermolecular structure from that of methylmercury from fish consumption.”

Spike in Mercury Levels Linked to Mercury Filling Removal

Hair concentrations of mercury have long been assumed to come only from fish consumption, but the new study suggests this may not necessarily be the case. In addition, since hair grows at a rate of about 1 centimeter per month, it allows contamination events to be traced back to particular points in time.

The study revealed, for instance, that one person’s spike in mercury levels could be traced back to unsafe removal of a mercury filling, with the researchers noting, “A mercury spike located by X-ray nanofluorescence on one hair strand could even be dated to removal of a single dental amalgam.”5

The study results could prove to be instrumental in helping people to determine the type of mercury contamination in their body along with the dose, source of exposure and timing of contamination. Ultimately, this may help to improve treatment options and provide valuable information to help prevent further contamination.

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American Dental Association Is Still Supporting Amalgam Safety

Despite the research showing the harmful effects of using mercury in dentistry, the American Dental Association (ADA) continues to support its use.

With this latest study from Environmental Science & Technology, we have clear evidence that even removing dental amalgam from your mouth may lead to a significant spike in mercury in your body.

The ADA’s statement on dental amalgam makes no mention of this fact, however, and instead cites an outdated 1997 report that found “the small amount of mercury released from amalgam restorations, especially during placement and removal, has not been shown to cause any … adverse health effects.”6

They also cite a 2004 report that found insufficient data to support an association between mercury release from dental amalgam and related health complaints, in part because “individuals with dental amalgam-attributed complaints had neither elevated urinary mercury nor increased prevalence of hypersensitivity to dental amalgam or mercury when compared with controls.”7

With the featured study, however, it’s now possible to look at hair concentrations of mercury in relation to dental amalgam, in addition to urinary mercury concentrations, which may show a clearer picture of exposure.

ADA Ready to Skirt Responsibility for Health Damage Caused by Mercury Fillings

Why does the ADA continue to support the use of mercury in dentistry when the research clearly shows it’s capable of significant harms to human health and the environment?

Attorney James Turner, who has represented consumers for more than two decades in an effort to ban mercury fillings,” told McClatchy DC that “the dental association’s advocacy on these issues has been motivated at least in part by an unspoken economic interest: to “avoid enormously costly product liability suits” by patients sickened from mercury exposure.”

The ADA appears to already be attempting to skirt responsibility. In response to one patient lawsuit, the ADA stated:8

“The ADA owes no legal duty of care to protect the public from allegedly dangerous products used by dentists.

The ADA did not manufacture, design, supply or install the mercury-containing amalgams … dissemination of information related to the practice of dentistry does not create a duty of care to protect the public from potential injury.”

Safe Removal of Mercury Fillings Is Crucial

An important point from the featured study is that unsafe removal of your mercury fillings could expose you to toxic amounts of poisonous mercury. 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 the following. You can find tips to help you find a biological dentist here, as well as below.

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

The Mercury Tri-Test

Chris Shade, Ph.D., is one of the foremost experts in the world on the subject of heavy metal detoxification, and in our interview above he shared his wisdom on this important topic. Shade developed a patented liquid chromatographic mercury speciation technology that differentiates and identifies the exactly source of your mercury — whether it's from your dental amalgams or from eating contaminated seafood (or both).

The test he developed is called the Mercury Tri-Test, because it looks at three different kinds of samples: blood, hair and urine. You always have more mercury in your tissues than in your blood. But there's a steady state or ratio between what's in your blood and what's in your tissues.

The Mercury Tri-Test is the only clinical test out there that differentiates between the inorganic form of mercury (typically found in amalgam fillings) and organic mercury or methylmercury (from fish), allowing you to tailor the most ideal detoxification protocol for your situation.