Oregonian Activists are Concerned about
Mercury in Poor Children

News Release: Give Kids a Toxin Day in Oregon

News release, Feb. 19, 2003

Consumer Groups Attack ADA's "Give Kids a Smile Day";
Call It "Give Kids a Toxin Day"

National consumer groups are challenging the American Dental Association's promotion of mercury dental fillings for children in the ADA's February 21, 2002 "Give Kids a Smile Day." Mothers Against Mercury Amalgam and Consumers for Dental Choice have denounced the ADA's "Give Kids a Smile" day as really being "Give Kids a Toxin" day, because the most common filling in children, amalgam, is 50% mercury.

"By calling these fillings 'silver,' the ADA is pulling a hidden ball trick on America's parents," said Charles G. Brown, national counsel. "These fillings are mainly mercury, known to be extremely toxic. If pregnant women shouldn't eat fish, they most assuredly should not get a mercury filling."

Mercury fillings (amalgam) have become a subject of national controversy. A California court ordered that warnings be posted that amalgam "causes exposure to mercury, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm." The Food & Drug Administration recently posted the warnings from the government of Canada, which advises that children and pregnant women not receive mercury fillings.

"We are most worried about children in low-income families, whom the ADA is targeting this week," Brown added. "The parents probably won't get warnings about the effect of mercury on their child's neural development."


Mercury fillings are also controversial for their environmental effects: Dental offices are now the largest source of mercury in the nation's wastewater.**

**Source: Dentist The Menace? The Uncontrolled Release of Mercury, by the Mercury Policy Project, Health Care Without Harm, the Sierra Club, and Toxics Action Center (2002).


Mothers Against Mercury Amalgam (MAMA)
Sandra Duffy
5647 Bay Creek Drive
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Ph. Home: 503-603-9333
Work: 503-988-3138

Consumers for Dental Choice
Charles Brown, Esq.
1616 H St., N.W., 8th floor
Washington, DC 20006
Ph. 202-347-9112
Fax: 202-347-9114

A dentist wrote an article for the Oregonian newspaper because she was upset by the protest on "Give Kids a Smile Day" in front of the Oregon Health Sciences University Dental School. Sandy Duffy's rebuttal follows the letter of protest from the dentist.

Dental protest was disgusting

I am a dentist in the Portland area and recently participated in a nationally sponsored "Give Kids a Smile" event. I was absolutely disgusted that any group could be so misinformed as to protest such a hugely beneficial public health project.

Some background: The Multnomah Dental Society was able to get the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health & Science University to close its clinics for the day so dozens of volunteer dentists could use the facility while dental students provided treatment to hundreds of children who otherwise have virtually no access to dental care.

The children were screened by school nurses and bused to OHSU on Feb. 21. More than 40 dentists volunteered. Many of us brought our own dental assistants, and the dental students themselves were outstanding. We were able to provide thousands of dollars of free dental care to hundreds of children with severe decay and oral infections. Many people volunteered hundreds of hours to make this project work. Unfortunately, some people chose this project as a forum to protest the use of mercury in fillings and congregated outside the dental school -- picketing the "poisoning of our children."

Many ways exist to restore decayed teeth without using mercury, and many times these alternatives can in fact be used. The reality of what most of the volunteer dentists were facing, however, was a small child typically under the age of 10, with at least 12 teeth so severely decayed and infected that they required extraction or what we refer to as baby root canals. Neither of these procedures requires the use of silver mercury fillings.

I'm not saying there were no silver mercury fillings placed at this event, but the true "poisoning of our children" is the constant presence of sugars in their diet, and the decay and profound infection that follow. Dental disease is virtually 100 percent preventable. If teeth were cleaned properly on a daily basis, sugar consumption kept to a minimum, and fluoride is used during and after tooth development, we would not need to even discuss what type of filling we should use.

Rather than picketing, these individuals would have been far more helpful if they had actually become involved in something positive and had helped manage the 400 youngsters waiting for needed dental treatment. At a time when public health projects being are rapidly being cut, it would seem that free dental care for children would be embraced, not blasted.

Dr. Ronda Trotman Reese is president-elect of the Multnomah Dental Society

The following is Sandy Duffy's rebuttal to Dr. Ronda Trotman Reese:

Dentists' use of mercury bad for kids


I am a lawyer and health activist in Portland and a member of both Mothers Against Mercury Amalgam, also known as MAMA, and Consumers for Dental Choice. I organized the Feb. 21 protest against the Multnomah County Dental Society event that provided free dental care to low-income children -- a program that included placing dental fillings that are 50 percent mercury, a potent neurotoxin.

Dr. Ronda Reese, a dentist who participated, writes that she is "disgusted that any group could be so misinformed as to protest such a hugely beneficial public health project" ("In My Opinion," Feb. 28.)

Free dental care is admirable, but use of mercury as a filling material is not. Mercury fillings are never free; the cost is health and that was the point of our protest. Reese admits that "silver mercury fillings" were placed in some of these children, but dismisses mercury as a toxin, asserting that it is sugar-laden diets and negligent dental hygiene that poison children because they result in tooth decay.

States, including Oregon, have passed laws to limit products containing mercury. The American Medical Association has called for the elimination of mercury in health care. Yet, according to the American Dental Association, 60 percent of Americans are unaware that amalgam dental fillings are 50 percent elemental mercury.

The World Health Organization Web site states that amalgam is the primary source of mercury in the human body. Scientific studies have corroborated this and belie the dental industry's claim that the mercury in amalgam is not bioavailable (bioavailable means it can be absorbed by body tissue).

The dental industry also claims there is no credible science that amalgams are harmful. Yet, an Internet search on PubMed of "mercury amalgam" will provide more than 1,000 studies that show otherwise. These include studies showing that mercury passes through the placenta of the pregnant woman to the fetus, as well as into breast milk postpartum, targeting the brain and kidneys. The amount of mercury correlates to the number of amalgams in the mother's mouth. Mercury affects enzymes, proteins and hormones in the body, leading to a range of health and behavioral problems. Even manufacturers of mercury amalgam warn that it is a neurotoxin and a nephrotoxin.

We "uninformed" protesters have personally known the effects of mercury toxicity and the challenge of regaining our health. We are activists for mercury-free dentistry solely because it is the right thing to do. There is no economic motive for us.

Yes, these children should have better diets and dental hygiene, but mercury is clearly more toxic than sugar and shouldn't be an added disadvantage to burden these children. There are safe alternatives.

Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, is sponsoring Senate Bill 681, which would ban mercury amalgams in children under 19 and in fertile women beginning in September 2003, and would ban it for all Oregonians beginning in 2008. If mercury amalgam must be placed in vapor-proof containers and handled as hazardous waste leaving the dental office, how can it possibly be safe in the human mouth? Dental consumers can learn more at www.toxicteeth.org.

Sandra Duffy of Lake Oswego is a lawyer.

Also see Sandy Duffy's testimony before the Government Reform Committee, Wellness and Human Rights Subcommittee on May 8, 2003. She spoke on the how the ADA and their affliates caused dentists to be "gagged" and how this interferred with good dental/patient relations. This is also an abridgement of the dentist's free speech rights.

Go to Oregon Senate Bill 681.

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