Updated January 31, 2009
On May 8, 2003 I attended the hearings in Washington D.C. conducted by Congressman Dan Burton R-Indiana) and Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-California). These hearings were part of the Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, a Subcommittee Hearing entitled "Consumer Choice and Implementing Full disclosure in Dentistry." This was the second hearing on dental mercury.
The first hearing of the Government Reform Committee, "Mercury in Dental amalgams: An Examination of the Science" was held November 14, 2002. You can access transcripts of the 2002 hearings at the Government Printing office website. The link to
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-107hhrg10784699/pdf/CHRG-107hhrg10784699.pdf is below.
Mercury in Dental Amalgams: An Examination of the Science
Burton said his commitee started doing this investigation into mercury in 1999 when he started examining the use of mercury [thimerosal] in baby vaccines. He said this was a "no win situation for the child and family," because the state mandates shots for the child before going to school.
Burton said his grandson Christian became profoundly autistic overnight. He developed autism at the age of 18 months after taking the MMR vaccine and other shots. (The MMR does not contain mercury.) Burton said that his grandson received nine vaccines that day and six of them contained mercury. (In a former SafeMinds.org article, his granddaughter Burton said, also had a close encounter with death due to the Hepatitis B vaccine.) Burton said the incidence of autism used to be 1 in 10,000 twenty years ago, but now was 1 in 250.
Congressman Burton vowed, "We are not going away. We are going to keep on collecting evidence and holding hearings. Then we are going to publish the evidence. What I want to know is why can't the the NIH and the ADA find a connection between mercury and health effects? Sweden found 700 credible papers about the harmful effects of mercury, but the NIH and the ADA can't find one."
This following is the statement released by Congressman Burton previous to the hearings. He read from this statement on May 8th.
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Committee on Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6143
TOM DAVIS, VIRGINIA (CHAIRMAN)
HENRY A. WAXMAN, CALIFORNIA (RANKING MINORITY MEMBER)
Minority (202) 225-5051
The Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness will hold an oversight hearing on Thursday, May 8, 2003 in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building at 2 PM, entitled, "Consumer Choice and Implementing Full Disclosure in Dentistry."
The Subcommittee is continuing an investigation into medical and dental exposures to mercury that was initiated by the full Government Reform committee during the 107th congress. Previously, the Committee reviewed concerns about thimerosal in vaccines and its links to developmental, speech, and language delays. It also examined mercury in dental amalgams and their health implications.
This hearing will focus primarily upon new information relating to possible health implications of mercury in the human body, and upon disclosing adequate information to patients to enable them to make informed choices about the type of dental restorative material that is used in their treatment.
Mercury is one of the most toxic minerals found in nature, second only to radioactive materials. Dental amalgam consists of a mixture of powdered metals (alloy) and liquid mercury, with mercury constituting 50 percent or slightly more of the amalgam by weight. After the ingredients are mixed and inserted into a cavity, the mixture quickly hardens. For many years it was thought that after amalgamation, the mercury was permanently bound to the other ingredients and was rendered inert. However, during the last 30 plus years, scientists have come to realize that small amounts of mercury continuously leach from amalgams, and that the leaching may go on for many years.
It should be noted that mercury is an element. It cannot be broken down or changed into a different substance. Whether in its vapor, liquid, or solid form, mercury is still mercury.
The human body does not have an effective filter or elimination system for mercury, since it is a substance that humans were not designed to ingest. Moreover, mercury in the human body accumulates over time.
The most common sources of human mercury toxicity are through vaccinations, dental amalgams, and fish consumption. Unfortunately, most of the Federal government's attention seems to have been focused on the hazards of fish consumption, rather than on the hazards of vaccinations and amalgams. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and many state government agencies have issued frequent warnings that vulnerable populations, such as pregnant and lactating women and young children, should limit their consumption of fish from mercury-polluted waters. Those warnings are entirely appropriate.
But United States government agencies seem to have been far less vigilant in their efforts to examine the health implications of mercury-containing vaccinations and amalgams, in spite of growing evidence that those sources of mercury may contribute to a substantial array of tragic problems, and very likely add more mercury burden to the average American body than any other source.
Mercury toxicity has been linked to tremors, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, Alzheimer's disease (AD), cardiovascular problems, fertility problems, impairment of kidney function, impairment of the immune system, impairment of fetal development, modest declines in intelligence quotient (IQ), and death.
Mercury is especially neurotoxic to the development brains of fetuses and young children. Mercury from mothers is passed through the placenta to the unborn baby, and some of that mercury may accumulate in the brain. After birth, breast-feeding can continue the bioaccumulation process. Neurological development continues through all of the first decade of life and well into the second decade. That is why various health warnings reference children age 14 and under.
Regardless of the source, neurological and renal problems can result from mercury in human cells. When speaking of the health consequences of mercury in the environment on May 1, 2003 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, noted pediatrician Dr. Katherine Shea, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P. said: "All forms of mercury are toxic. It is a poison in all of its forms. There is no good mercury." 1 In response to a question she went on to explain that mercury damage lasts a lifetime. She stated: "You can't take a pill and fix it."2
A January of 2003 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 12 women of childbearing age has mercury levels above the EPA-safe threshold of 5.8 parts per million in their blood. That could put as many as 320,000 newborns at risk of neurological effects from being exposed in utero.3
A study by the National Research Council Committee on the Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury reviewed the epidemiological and toxicology literature up to the year 2000. The report came up with the much lower estimate that 60,000 U. S. newborns annually are at risk for neurodevelopmental effects due to in utero mercury exposure.
Whether the number is 60,000 or 320,000 or some number in between, that is a tragic number of babies to put at risk, especially since most of that risk can be avoided.
Some recent developments are noteworthy.
The FDA has decided to adopt the EPA reference dose for mercury body burden-the theoretical amount that the typical person con tolerate without any discernable harm. That represents a four-fold decrease in the FDA estimate.
The Swedish Dental Material Commission released a report last week authored by Dr. Maths Berlin, Ph. D., who was the former Chair of the World Health Organization (WHO) International project on Chemical Safety. The report entitled "Mercury in Dental-Filling Materials-An Updated Risk Analysis in Environmental Medical Terms" involved a review of 936 scientific papers, of which just over 700 were deemed to be credible. All of the papers were recent, having been published between 1997 through 2002.
Among other things, the report indicated that previous estimates of a safety margin of mercury in the human body were wrong-harm may occur in vulnerable individuals at much lower levels than previously thought.
A conclusion of the report stated: "With reference to the fact that mercury is a multipotent toxin with effects on several levels of the biochemical dynamics of the cell, amalgam must be considered to be an unsuitable material for dental restoration. This is especially true since fully adequate and less toxic alternatives are available." 4
The report also states: "With reference to the risk of inhibiting influence on the growing brain, it is not compatible with science and tested experience to use amalgam fillings in children and fertile women." 5
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced in April, 2003, that lead may impair children's intelligence at far lower levels of exposure than those in current Federal health guidelines, meaning that potentially millions of additional U. S. children than was previously thought may have lower IQs from ingesting contaminated dust.
A study conducted by Dr. Mark Geier, which was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, concludes that there has been a documented increase in neurodevelopmental disorders following the use of vaccines containing thimerosal. According to Dr. Geier: "The amount of mercury in thimerosal in childhood vaccines far exceeds Federal safety guidelines...A causal relationship between childhood vaccines containing thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders and heart disease appears to be confirmed."
Independent research conducted by Dr. Boyd Haley and Dr. James Adams indicated that autistic children represent a subpopulation that cannot effectively excrete mercury from their bodies, and are therefore very susceptible to the toxic methyl-mercury exposure presented during routine childhood vaccinations.
More has been learned about the synergistic effects that can result when multiple heavy metals, such as both lead and mercury, are ingested by the same person. That subject will be covered more in-depth in the Subcommittee hearing.
A recent court order in California requires implementation of a Proposition 65 warning, to be prominently posted in dental clinics with more than 9 employees. It states: "Amalgam, used in many dental fillings, causes exposure to mercury, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Root canal treatments and restorations, including fillings, crowns and bridges, use chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has studies the situation and approved for use all dental restorative materials. Consult your dentist to determine which materials are appropriate for your treatment."
Proposition 65 was adopted by the voters of California in 1986, but it took 17 years to implement in dental offices, and that happened only as a result of a successful lawsuit.
California's "Watson Law" (1992) still has not been implemented. It requires the California Dental Board to prepare and distribute a fact sheet about the risks and efficacies of dental fillings. When the board still had not complied in 2001, nine years after enactment of the law, the public outcry led the legislature to shut down the board and create a new one. The new board held hearings on the safety of mercury-containing fillings in 2002, but once again has bogged down as the California Dental Association argues against effective disclosure of risks.
There have been major disagreements as to whether state dental boards impose a so called "Gag Rule" on dentist that prohibits them from initiating conversations with patients about the potential removal of amalgams. Although the ADA denies that there is such a rule, many dentist say that is very real and is strictly enforced by state dental boards. Mercury-free dentists contend that they cannot compete openly, as they are not allowed to advertise that they offer "mercury-free" fillings.
The "Gag Rule" that inhibits dentists from discussing the potential health risks of amalgam was first inserted into the ADA Code of Ethics while an ADA subsidiary held the patent on amalgam. This raises strong First Amendment issues, and the Attorneys General of Iowa, Oregon, and Minnesota have ruled that the ADA gag rule may not be enforced in their states.
Amalgams typically are referred to as "Silver" fillings. While they are silver in color, and there is some silver in the alloy portion of the amalgam, the name obscures the fact that "silver" fillings are 50% or more mercury.
The first state that successfully passed a full disclosure law and properly implemented it is Maine. Former State Senate president, present-day Congressman Michael Michaud (ME-02), wrote a disclosure statute in 2001, then oversaw its implementation by the Maine Department of health in 2002. A booklet designed for dental patients advises consumers that the main ingredient of amalgam fillings is mercury, and that it has potential health risks and significant environmental consequences.
Proposition 65, the so-called "Gag Rule," and informed consent will be discussed at the Subcommittee hearing.
Finally, there is considerable concern about economically-disadvantaged persons for whom no dental choice exists. For most families on Medicaid, the choice is "mercury fillings or no fillings at all" in their teeth. Many moderate-income consumers face almost as bad a situation. Insurance often covers only mercury fillings, forcing those who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket to accept mercury in their mouths.
In view of recent advances in science, it is time to fully inform the American public about the risks, as well as the benefits, of various dental restorative materials. It also may be time to move on to safer alternatives.
During the 107th Congress, Ms. Watson of California (for herself and Mr. Burton of Indiana) introduced H.R. 4163, the Mercury in Dental Filling Disclosure and Prohibition Act, also referred to as the Watson-Burton Bill. This bill was designed to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ban mercury-containing amalgams intended for use in dental fillings effective January 1, 2007. A transitional provision also would have required a label that disclosed: "Dental amalgam contains approximately 50 percent mercury, a highly toxic element. Such product should not be administered to children less than 18 years of age, pregnant women, or lactating women. Such product should not be administered go any consumer without a warning that he product contains mercury, which is a highly toxic element, and therefore poses health risks."
(Editor's note: A revised version of the bill, HR 1680, was reintroduced in the 108th Congress. In the 109th Congress HR 4011 was reintroduced with many added sponsorers. HR 4011 also includes environmental issues that are related to the use of dental amalgam.
HR 4011 can be read at http://thomas.loc.gov The name of the bill remains the same-"Mercury in Dental Filling Disclosure and Prohibition Act." Type in HR 4011 to see the bill.
(January 2009 editor's note) HR 4011 is no longer the number of the bill as it changes with each new session of Congress. One of the best ways to keep up with the newest number is to go to the Library of Congress website (http://thomas.loc.gov) that I linked to above, and type in the search box "mercury." If you do an advanced search and put Congresswoman Diane Watson from California as one of the sponsors, you will most likely find the latest legislation or resolutions concerning dental mercury.
1 Response to a question at The Environment & Health Forumm presentation in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on May 1, 2003 entitled, "Public Health Implications of Mercury: Protecting the Health of Children and Other Vulnerable Populations."
3 Centers for Disease Control, January 2003, Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
4 Mercury in Dental_Filling materials_An Updated Risk Analysis in Environmental Medical Terms, by Maths Berlin, The Dental Material Commission of Sweden.
Dr. Fritz Lorscheider, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Medial Physiology & Biophysics
University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Dr. Boyd Haley, Ph. D., Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Dr. Maths Berlin, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Medicine
University of Lund, Sweden and
Past Chair, Internation Project of Checmical Safety,
World Health Organization
Dr. Frederick C. Eichmiller, D.D.S., Director, American Dental Association Health Foundation
Paffenbarger Research Center, National Bureau of Standards and Technology
Sandra Duffy, Esq., Founding member, Consumers of Dental Choice Northwest
Lake Oswego, OR
Congressman Mike Michaud (ME-02)
Member of Congress, Second district of Maine
Dr. Chester Yokoyama, D.D.S., Member, Dental Board of California
Mr. Emmitt Carlton, Immediate Past President, Alexandria Virginia Chapter,
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
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