FDA Confesses Mercury Fillings Neurotoxic Hazard
FDA reverses its position on the safely of dental fillings
By Press Release
Jun 17, 2008
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asserted for years that mercury in dental fillings is harmless, but has changed its position following a class-action lawsuit settlement this month.
The debate has waged for almost 150 years over the safety of amalgam -- a material comprised half of mercury and half of other metals such as silver, tin and copper -- which has been the conventional means of filling cavities. It has been the FDA's published opinion that federal agencies "have found no scientific studies that demonstrate dental amalgam harms children or adults." But following the June 2 settlement of the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of consumer advocate groups and some dentists, the agency's Web site now reads: "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses."
The news is vindication to Dr Jerry Simon and his group at Dental Care of Stamford who stopped using amalgam fillings more than 20 years ago because of the controversy surrounding the material.
"Is it worth the health risk of the mercury?" he said. "We don't even have the equipment to do these fillings in our office."
In many states, including Connecticut, mercury fillings are treated as hazardous waste once they're removed from a tooth. Dentists are prohibited from flushing the scraps of mercury fillings down the drain and need special filters -- like the ones in Dental Care of Stamford’s office -- to trap the mercury and have it removed by a medical waste specialist.
Although mercury is a known hazard, and dozens of studies have been done, none had been enough to convince agencies such as the FDA or the American Dental Association to limit amalgam's use or warn patients about possible dangers until now.
This flies in the face of logic since pregnant women are told to avoid tuna and sword fish due to concerns of mercury. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury must be disposed of in special ways and if a bulb is broken in a room, the EPA has rules to clean up the mercury that include evacuating the room, opening the windows and practically calling in the Haz Mat team.
The basic properties of metal become a concern when placed in a tooth, he said: As people drink hot and cold substances, the metals expand and contract, running the risk of cracking the tooth. Beyond that, they tend to allow food to leak in after about five years, causing additional cavities underneath the filling.
But although dentists may individually be moving away from mercury, the ADA said the FDA's change of heart won't affect its stance. The association said in a statement that amalgam is "a safe, affordable and durable material that has been used in the teeth of more than 100 million Americans." And since the FDA is not restricting the use of amalgam, there will be little actual change in dentists' offices.
Simon thinks there's too much politics involved for the ADA's stance to change. To admit mercury is dangerous is to invite thousands of lawyers to find patients to bring lawsuits against their dentists, he said -- a move he thinks the ADA is unwilling to make. He thinks that if there was a way to prohibit any law suits, the ADA could quickly change its position.
As part of the settlement, the FDA will make a final decision in July on "special controls" to implement for using mercury. Possible moves range from giving patients more information to prohibiting the material's use in some cases.
At the end of the day, Dr. Simon says that since we are not permitted to throw away scraps of the silver mercury fillings in the toilet, how can we justify putting it into people’s mouths’?
For More Information Contact Dr Simon at 203 324-6171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thu, June 19th, 2008. 07:15 am