Dental Mercury Ban Pending
Rose Marie Williams, MA
156 Sparkling Ridge Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
Tel. 845.255.0836 fax 845.255.5101
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Silver – mercury amalgam was first introduced to American dentists in 1830 by the Cracour Brothers of London. They falsely claimed to be dentists and quickly become rich selling mercury laden amalgams, initiating the “amalgam wars” that divided dentistry for half a century. The new material caught on rapidly because it was cheaper, easier, and less painful than the available alternatives, and therefore achieved great economic success. It owes its success to the malleability of the semi-liquid metal mercury which makes up more than 50 percent of standard “silver” amalgam. The early vendors astutely chose the appellation “silver” amalgam, putting a positive spin on this controversial product. Many consumers are still unaware that the shiny fillings in their teeth are composed mostly of mercury. Mercury is now acknowledged to be one of the most toxic nonradioactive heavy metals known to man. Even in small amounts it is more toxic than lead, cadmium, and arsenic. (1,2)
Mercury amalgam made dental care more affordable for the working classes because it was much cheaper than gold, and it was more easily worked by non-professionally trained dentists. The new mercury amalgams were strongly opposed by The American Society of Dental Surgeons, the original dental association founded in this country “to develop and foster the skilled artistic craft of treating dental disease.” The organization later “required its members to sign an agreement that they would never…use amalgam on penalty of expulsion.” (1)
As early as 1873, mercury’s toxicity was expressed in a statement by a Dr. Payne proclaiming in the Chicago Medical Journal, that “neither Asiatic cholera, nor small pox, nor any malarious disease is doing half the mischief in the world that is done by this poisoning.” No amount of skepticism, nor health warnings were able to stop the mercury amalgam takeover of dental care in this country. Another boost came in 1896 when a dentist named G.V. Black developed a better amalgam, in addition to improving the procedures for cavity preparation. Amalgams quickly became the industry standard. Black’s techniques are still in use today.
More than a century later and into a new millennium, the tide has finally begun to turn against the use of toxic mercury in the mouths of humans. Mercury is a powerful poison and neurotoxin. Exposure to mercury amalgams has been associated with numerous chronic degenerative diseases such a muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, anorexia, insomnia, arthritis, irritability, memory loss, nausea, gum disease, thyroid dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, infertility, irregular heart beat, chest pain, emphysema, and cancer. It has also been associated with attention and sensory deficit, and learning disabilities in children.(2)
U.S. government reports over the past three decades have documented the toxic effects of small amounts of mercury, causing this neurotoxin to be phased out of nearly every consumer product, manufacturing process, and medical application – except dental fillings. The dental industry still inserts nearly 70 million mercury fillings in the mouths of adults and children. According to the World Health Organization, fillings are the major source of human exposure to mercury, for which no safe level has been established. New studies on children confirm this exposure.(3)
The first generation of dentists using mercury amalgam fillings were derided as “quacks,” because quacksilver was the German word for quicksilver (mercury). As mercury amalgams soon became the norm, dentists were no longer accused of practicing “quackery.” Instead, they became the respected majority. The term did not go out of vogue. While no longer associated with the German word, quacksilver, or mercury fillings, the term, “quack,” has become a common derogatory reference to health practitioners who fall outside the accepted constraints of mainstream medicine, no matter how useful their therapies might be.
Cited as “Mercury in Dental Fillings Disclosure and Prohibition Act,” and identified as H.R.4011, the bill was re-introduced by Congresswoman Diane E. Watson of California, to prohibit after 2008 the introduction into interstate commerce of mercury intended for use in a dental filling, and for other purposes.
Highlights of the bill are as follows:
Elemental mercury and mercury compounds are known to be toxic and hazardous to human health and to the environment.
Mercury is the number three hazard behind arsenic and lead.
A dental amalgam, commonly referred to as “silver filling” consists of 42-58 percent mercury.
Consumers may be deceived by the use of the term “silver” to describe a dental amalgam, which contains substantially more mercury than silver.
Approximately 70,000 dental amalgam fillings are placed annually and each one may contain one-half to three-quarters of a gram of mercury depending on the size of the filling.
Dental amalgams continually emit mercury vapor, the amount of which is dependent upon the age, size and number of fillings.
When inhaled, approximately 80 percent of the mercury vapor enters the bloodstream directly through the lungs and then rapidly deposits preferentially in the brain and kidneys as well as other parts of the body.
Mercury toxicity builds up over years of exposure.
Research concludes that dental mercury exposure increases body burden.
The estimated average daily intake and retention of mercury from dental amalgam ranges from 3 to 27 micrograms per day, and is greater than all other sources of combined.
An estimated 600,000 children are born annually at risk for neurodevelopmental
effects from in utero exposure to methyl mercury.
Effective alternatives to mercury based dental fillings exist, but many publicly and
privately financed health plans do not allow consumers a choice.(3)
Section B of the bill includes the following environmental findings:
Mercury wastewater released from dental clinics has been shown to fail the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) toxicity characteristics leaching procedure, and therefore is regulated as hazardous waste.
Waste dental mercury can methylate, becoming more bioavailable and magnifying in fish as methyl mercury, the most toxic form of mercury.
As of 2003 there have been 2,362 fish consumption advisories across the nation due to mercury contamination.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued fish consumption advisories to pregnant women and children not to eat certain commercial fish varieties.
Mercury fillings from dental offices are now the leading source of mercury in the nation’s waste water.
Mercury from dental amalgams can enter the environment during any point of the product’s life cycle – including placement or removal of fillings, bodily excretions, sewage sludge incarceration, crop fertilizer, landfills; or when vapor is directly released from fillings during brushing, chewing, exposure to hot foods or salt, or during cremation.
Approximately 238 lbs. of mercury from dental fillings were released nationally from crematoria in 1999.
Six to 16 percent of dental offices exceed the exposure levels for air mercury permitted by Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.(3)
My appreciation goes to Dr. Jerry Mittleman of the Holistic Dental Digest PLUS, for alerting me to this important piece of legislation. H.R.4011 “Mercury in Dental Fillings Disclosure and Prohibition Act” was originally introduced five years ago by Congresswoman Watson. At that time it had only two co-sponsors and quickly fell by the wayside. The bill now has 16 co-sponsors and stands a better chance of being accepted in the House of Representatives, after which it must go to the Senate for their approval. If we, the people, show our support this may be the year for it to be signed into law.
Health and environmental organizations are urging citizens to keep the momentum going by contacting their Congressperson by calling 202.224.3121 or 202.225.3121 to express support for H.R.4011 “because it is time to end mercury in dentistry, as well as protect children from further mercury poisoning.”4,5
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and the American Association of Health Freedom (AAHF) are working together to gather a collective grassroots support for the bill. The AAHF web site (http://www.healthfreedom.net) makes it easy to send emails to individual Congressmen and women. It is important to remember that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
“Health Risks and the Environment”
by Rose Marie Williams, MA, president of the Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
PO Box 533, New Paltz, NY 12561
$20.00 check or money order made out to Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc.
(free postage in US) Specify Video or DVD How environmental risk factors affect health more than inherited genes is discussed in this candid talk by health advocate, Rose Marie Williams. Included are suggestions for reducing toxic exposures around the home, contact numbers for inexpensive water testing, and useful books and pamphlets.
The Cancer Awareness Coalition, Inc., is a 501 grassroots health and environmental organization dedicated to raising awareness about health risks associated with pesticides and other pollutants encouraging use of safer practices protecting public health. Video sales support this mission.
1) Brown, EH & Hansen, R, The Key to Ultimate Health. California: Advanced Health Research Publications; 2000.
2) Williams, RM, Mercury rising. Townsend Letter. 2005; 265/266:pp34-36.
3) Bill for banning amalgam re-introduced.International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology[online]. Available at: http://www.iaomt.org. Accessed May 12, 2006.
4) Mittleman, J, DDS, Protecting kids from mercury poisoning. The Holistic Dental Digest PLUS (Email: email@example.com). 2006; 159:p2.
5) HR 4011, Mercury in dental fillings disclosure and prohibition act, American Association for Health Freedom, http://ga4.org/campaign/mercury_free Accessed May 12, 2006.