Mouth-fills of Mercury Worry the French
French advocacy groups opposed to the use of amalgam (mercury) fillings by dentists are stepping up a campaign to have the practice banned, encouraged by a recent Nairobi gathering of world environment ministers at UN-sponsored international mercury negotiations.
Marie Grosman of the lobby group Non au mercure dentaire (Stop dental mercury) told Le Monde: “Amalgam fillings contain 50% mercury and each year we put more than 17 tons of mercury into the mouths of the French”. At the same time she adds, documentation supplied to dentists by amalgam manufacturers is “extremely alarming” reflecting, in her words, “hundreds of scientific studies that incriminate dental mercury”.
Her concerns are however rebutted by French dentists. “There has never been any scientific evidence that proves it is dangerous to health,” says Roland L’Herron, president of the national trades union confederation of dental surgeons (CNSD). “This is an old fantasy,” adds his colleague Jean-Claude Michel, a senior member of the same organisation. “There is no trace of mercury in the urine or blood” of people who have amalgam fillings.
In a November 4 press statement at the end of the 5-day conference in Keyna CNSD said: Coinciding with the Nairobi international negotiations aimed at achieving by 2013 a plan to reduce mercury use and its releases into the environment, a number of health and environment organisations have been in the media reviving a controversy over dental amalgam. Many studies, including the findings in 2008 of the Scientific Committee of the European Union, have already responded to these cocnerns and shown that dental amalgam is a safe material without risk to health. Interviewed on this occasion by (French news agency) AFP, CNSD President Roland l’Herron, said there was no scientific evidence of danger to humans, and that a ban introduced by Scandinavian countries, was for environmental purposes only.”
Earlier CNSD had insisted that dental amalgam has been in use for more than a century and so far “no incident or accident has, under controlled experimental conditions, shown any casual links between amalgam fillings in patients and development of pathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis”.
Toxicologist, André Picot, president and honorary research director at the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles says however: “(Mercury) is a carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive toxicant. It is also toxic to the nervous, immune and hormonal systems” and is known to accumulate in the brain, the endocrine glands and the cardiovascular system … It is impossible to define a safe exposure dose” for those such as pregnant women and children who count as the vulnerable population.
A Netherlands-based organisation, the International Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology recently published a news item about a Council of Europe resolution on ‘restricting or prohibiting the use of amalgams.’ The article noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on 27 May 2011 urging its 47 member countries to start “restricting or prohibiting the use of amalgams as dental fillings.” Deputy Jean Huss, Luxembourg’s representative to the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the European Union), drafted a meticulously researched report that explains two major reasons behind this call to action: Amalgam is a health threat: “…amalgams are the prime source of exposure to mercury for developed countries, also affecting embryos, foetuses (through the placenta) and children (through breastfeeding). Exposure to mercury can seriously affect the health of patients and dental professionals…”
The IBMCT added: Amalgam is an environmental threat: “…between 60 and 90 tonnes of mercury from dental surgeries are released into and contaminate Europe’s atmosphere, surface waters and soil every year.”
The debate is a longstanding one that has ebbed and flowed over many decades but has gained fresh imptus since the INC negotiations got underway because its framework includes references to dental mercury impacts.
At the Nairobi meeting for instance and according to the website Worldwatch.org “more than 140 countries, including the US, agreed to reduce the global mercury supply through a multilateral treaty under the auspices of the International Negotiating Committee (INC) on Mercury of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The World Dental Federation-FDI in a statement appropos Nairobi said: “Once again, the issue of dental amalgam will be under discussion… During the second UNEP session, called INC2, governments were invited to submit their views “regarding the draft text of a comprehensive and suitable approach to a legally binding instrument on mercury, as well as information on releases of mercury from the oil and gas sector and information on the use of mercury as a medical preservative, by 25 March 2011. The conference agenda will include discussion of these submissions together with technical briefings and a series of demonstration talks”.
The pro and anti-mercury communities have fought long and hard, not the least in the United States in a bid to determine the level of health risk attached to the use of amalgam fillings, made up as they are of a mixture of elemental mercury and a powdered alloy of silver, tin and copper.
A 2009 report by Brie Zeltner of The Plain Dealer on Cleveland.com website says: “Advocates of “mercury-free” dentistry say that there is enough scientific evidence of mercury’s toxicity to justify discontinuing its use, or at the very least to take a precautionary approach in potentially vulnerable patients. Many point to a 1991 report by experts at the International Program on Chemical Safety, a joint venture with the World Health Organization, which concluded that outside of certain occupations, dental amalgam is the largest single source of human mercury exposure.” The full report is worth reading as it sets out the pro- and anti- arguments that two years ago, represented the latest position in the debate.
Meanwhile below is a three-part investigation screened in February 2009 by ITV, a UK television network:
Story: Ken Pottinger
- U.S. Weighs Support for U.N. Treaty That Could Force Dentists to Change Materials Used in Fillings (foxnews.com)
- More Dental Patients Requesting Mercury Filling Removal: Los Angeles Dentist Teaches General Dentists “Mercury Safe Dentistry” (prweb.com)
- United States and Mercury Restrictions: Do as we say, not as we do? (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- WHO Contribution To Amalgam Debate Welcomed By British Dental Association (medicalnewstoday.com)
- What uses does mercury have in everyday life (wiki.answers.com)