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2019 update on the fight for mercury-free dentistry

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • This week, we celebrate our annual Mercury Awareness week, during which we ask for your continued financial support to put an end to the use of dental mercury worldwide
  • Mercola.com will match your donations, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000, given by August 31, 2019
  • In this interview, Charlie Brown shows how Consumers for Dental Choice is blazing four routes to victory for mercury-free dentistry: (1) the Chicago Declaration and its heated challenge to FDA; (2) the state rulemaking to require amalgam-using dentists to show proof they tell patients about amalgam’s mercury, its risks and its alternatives; (3) the phase-out amalgam campaign in Europe that is now spreading across Africa and Asia; and (4) the upcoming Amalgam phase-out amendment battle at the Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • To make amalgam a business loser, consumers should patronize mercury-free dentists only. Many dentists have seen the light and abandoned amalgam; it’s time for the others to feel the heat
  • Dr. Mercola raises his match by 20% this year. He asks both health professionals and consumers to consider doing the same!

In this interview, Charlie Brown, former state attorney general of West Virginia and executive director of Consumers for Dental Choice, provides us with an update to the global mercury-free dentistry campaign you’ve so generously helped us support through the past nine years.

We are now incredibly close to the ultimate finish line, thanks to Brown’s persistent and dedicated efforts and your unrelenting financial support. I want to extend a personal thank you to all who have contributed to this mission in the past, and are considering doing so now.

Brown has made it his life’s mission to remove mercury from dentistry across the world, which will also put an end to a large portion of mercury outflow into our environment. This week, we celebrate our annual Mercury Awareness week, during which we ask for your continued financial support to put an end to the use of this pernicious neurotoxin.

“The campaign for mercury-free dentistry has real wins, thanks to the grassroots help of Mercola.com readers,” Brown says. “We are toe-to-toe with the American Dental Association (ADA) and its million-dollar lobbyists across the country and around the world. We are advancing, and the ADA is retreating. Together, we will throw dental mercury into the hazardous waste bins of history.”

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Pressure on US Food and Drug Administration is paying off

Over the past year, Consumers for Dental Choice has made advancements on multiple fronts by implementing a number of landmark strategies. In the U.S., Consumers for Dental Choice has applied pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the likes of which the agency reportedly has never seen before.

In all, 50 groups, including the Sierra Club, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Greenpeace, signed the Chicago Declaration for Mercury-free Dentistry for America. “That really got FDA’s attention,” Brown says.

When the FDA invited public comment on how it’s doing on its medical devices, 80% of responses — four times that of all other devices combined — were about amalgam.

“People are sick and tired and they made it clear that the No. 1 public interest on medical device regulation is amalgam,” Brown says. “They’re sick and tired of FDA coddling up to the ADA, as it’s done this entire century.

Coming along too is the medical community … the National Medical Association (NMA) and the African-American physicians. They have gotten real interested in this. Their journal published a commentary about how amalgam is unfair to the children of color and other low-income children in this country.

Finally, the trade press is really biting at the heels of FDA. They’re really wanting to know why FDA is still not acting on amalgam. We now have information that FDA is going to move [on this issue].”

While it’s still too early for Brown to give specifics on what the FDA is planning to do, when available, I will bring him back for an update. As for the Consumers for Dental Choice petition to the FDA urging the agency to follow in Europe’s footsteps and eliminate dental mercury for pregnant women and children, more than 48,000 signatures have been received and delivered.

“The European Union, more than a year ago, ended amalgam for children under 15, and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. They required each member state — and there are 28 countries in the EU as of right now — to come up with a plan to go further.

We are saying to FDA, ‘Why are you lagging so far behind Europe? Why won’t you pay attention to the very treaty that the United States not only signed but was the first country in the world to ratify?’

As I said, the heat is building. We think we’re going to move, but they still have been way too close to the pro-mercury dentists. There’s no question. That’s the ADA. The ADA, however, doesn’t have the same clout they used to have because its own members are walking away.

Its own members are saying, ‘Why should I use amalgam just because you want me to? I don’t want to. My patients don’t want to. I don’t want to get people in my office sick.’”

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Making amalgam a business loser is a winning strategy

This is undoubtedly a direct response to people following the advice given by Consumers for Dental Choice — the advice to not frequent any dentist who still uses mercury amalgam on ANY of his or her patients, even if it’s not you. By patients abandoning mercury-based dentists, more and more have recognized the folly of sticking with the ADA’s recommendation to keep using it.

“Basically, we are making amalgam into a business loser,” Brown says. We still have a way to go though, to get government-based dentists to follow suit and to get all insurance plans to cover mercury-free dentistry across the board, and not just in some instances.

Fortunately, as the dental amalgam market continues to shrink, amalgam manufacturers are also starting to follow the money and transition into making alternative filling materials instead. 

“By making amalgam a business loser for the dentist and a business loser for the manufacturers, we are pursuing a success route,” Brown says. “We want FDA to change. But if FDA doesn’t change, we have a way to win regardless.”

Battleground Maine

In the U.S., Consumers for Dental Choice is also taking on Maine’s Dental Board. After filing a complaint, the board has agreed to create legislation requiring dentists to have informed consent before they can use mercury amalgam on a patient. Brown explains:

“Maine is our battleground state now … I’m in my element. I’ve been challenging dental boards for a long time. Years ago, we got rid of the gag rule. We won factsheet laws. We won disclosures. The Maine Dental Board is ignoring its duty to enforce the law on disclosure.

We have filed our petition, our protest, to the Maine Dental Board. They, in turn, have agreed to write a regulation, which will require the pro-mercury dentists to provide proof that they told the patients amalgam has problems … If they don’t do it, there’s going to be a discipline action against the amalgam-using dentists.”

In short, dentists using amalgam in Maine will be required to present patients with a factsheet detailing in clear language the adverse health effects of amalgam, and information on available alternatives.

Once given this information, patients are unlikely to choose amalgam, given the choice. It will undoubtedly also encourage more dentists to go mercury-free, as they have to admit, with documentation, that they’re putting toxic material into your mouth. 

“When I started in this, the dental boards were prosecuting mercury-free dentists. Now we’ve turned the tables and said, ‘You’ve got to prosecute the pro-mercury dentists because they’re not following the law.’ We think with this success in Maine, we’re on the way.

They’re writing a rule. We’ve got a battle ahead this fall in 2019. It will be a prototype for other states. We’re going to prepare a kit for other states. If you want to get active in your state, you, the consumer, you, the dentist, you, the health professional, write me at [email protected]

Write me, and I will work with you to get you the material so that in your state, you can parallel what we’re accomplishing in the state of Maine, our model state …

The good news is that the director of health, who wrote and approved that factsheet, her sister is now the governor of Maine. So, we think we’ve got support all the way to the top in Maine to get this thing done.”

Global progress

In addition to the success in the EU, Consumers for Dental Choice is also making great progress in the effort to eliminate dental mercury in Nigeria, Mauritius, Tanzania, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India.

“[The U.S.] Pentagon says they can’t afford the switch. They’re giving mercury fillings. The richest agency in the world — I’m sure — is not giving mercury-free dentistry to its soldiers and sailors, but Bangladesh is. India is.

India has the third biggest army in the world. Bangladesh is one of the poorer countries in the world. Yet no one in the Bangladesh Armed Forces gets amalgam. No one in their family gets it. They’ve gone completely mercury-free. Well, if Bangladesh can end using amalgam in their armed forces, so can the Pentagon,” Brown says.

Consumers for Dental Choice and its international allies were also instrumental in getting dental amalgam included in the Minamata Convention, which calls for significant reductions in mercury pollution from multiple sources.

“Things come to a head this November 2019,” Brown says. “During the last week of November, the governments from every country in the world will again convene. There are well over 140 countries to sign this Convention. Over 100 have ratified it. The United States was the first to ratify.

We will bring a team of people from the Americas, from the island states, from Africa, Asia and Europe — our dentists, engineers, lawyers, journalists and environmental leaders …

The governments, starting in Africa with the country of Gabon, and then a number of other countries, have proposed an amendment to the Minamata Convention: the amalgam amendment. It would phase out amalgam for children in two years, and phase it out for everybody else on a date that people would agree on.

That will be debated this November. We are mounting a full-fledged campaign. We’ve been asked by the African governments to lead civil society — lead the organizing from the outside while they work the inside and work the government.”

Much at stake in November

In the summer of 2019, four EU nations — Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland and Slovakia — followed in Sweden’s footsteps and phased out amalgam for all patients as of a specific date. During the November debate, Consumers for Dental Choice will fight to get all nations to agree to a complete phase-out. 

“That’s going to be what they call the Third Conference of the Parties. This again has come, Dr. Mercola, because you dug in with us way back in 2011. You helped us put together this worldwide organization. You matched funds. You’re matching them again.

You’re matching them more than you ever have: $150,000. We hope to raise $150,000 dollars, which we’ll double with your funds to $300,000. We use it effectively. We use it efficiently …

Our staff size is the same as it was in 2011, when we started. Our money goes to the field. It went to the [creation of the] Chicago Declaration. It went to the Maine team that we organized to get front and center in our model state. It goes to some of the best environmental leaders I can imagine in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America. We have founded centers and intermediaries.

There’s the Latin-American Center for Environmental Health in Montevideo, the Asian Center for Environmental Health in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the African Center for Environmental Health in Abidjan, Ivory Coast …

The European Center for Environmental Medicine in Berlin … These are headed by talented people. They run the campaigns for us … We’re pretty darn good at organizing. If people choose to donate funds to us, I think our track record is pretty clear. We get things done …

One of the priorities this November is bringing our team to Geneva and winning at the table and getting the countries to agree, yes, it’s time to set an end date for this plague, this horrible mistake of putting mercury in the mouth. Now, here comes the world’s chance to correct that mistake.”

donate today

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Please consider making a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice right now, and I will match your gift dollar for dollar, up to $150,000. Mercury is difficult to get rid of once it’s in your body.

Clearly, preventing exposure is the best strategy, and dental amalgams is one of the biggest contributors to mercury toxicity. By donating to this cause, you can help prevent the poisoning of literally billions of people around the world. You’ll also help protect our global environment from mercury pollution, a significant source of which is mercury-based dentists. As noted by Brown:

“The symbol of the Minamata Convention was the fish, because we all agreed we don’t want mercury in the fish that children eat. It causes permanent brain damage to them. That mercury came from many sources. One of the major sources was amalgam.

You can’t tell where that mercury came from, but everybody agreed we’ve got to work on all major sources. That’s how we got amalgam [included] as an environmental issue. It was the right strategy to start the beginning of the end of amalgam.”

Future projections

June 3, 2020, the European Commission will decide whether to recommend the phasing out of amalgam for all. Brown believes they will. After all, several European countries have already done it. Other nations are down to between 1% and 4% use. Similarly, Zambia has expressed willingness to phase out amalgam by 2021.

“We’re seeing that in one country after another that I visit,” Brown says. “For the Minamata Convention itself, we have the phase-down requirement. We are trying to shift that to phase-out. We will make a huge effort at that. This November, we hope to succeed.

If we don’t succeed, they will meet again in two years. Our chance to get the victory is 2019. Failing that, we’ll take another turn at that in 2021. By then, I believe we will win … We are very near the finish line. Again, I urge people to stay with us, because we can put this mercury into the hazardous waste bins of history.”

If you’re watching this, I encourage you to participate in this annual donation drive, and make a donation — large or small — to this worthy cause. Remember, I will match donation dollar for dollar, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

I raised my match 20% this year, from $125,000 to $150,000. Please consider doing the same, and raising your gift, at whatever level you give, by 20% too.

As I said before, Brown runs a really lean, mean organization. He doesn’t waste a cent. Your donations — as history has proven — will be used wisely, judiciously, frugally yet effectively, to end the use of mercury through legislative capacity within the next couple of years in several nations, and the entire world within 10. It’s a great goal, and I hope you will decide to play a part in this historical effort.