FDA says mercury dental fillings not harmful
FDA has whitewashed mercury amalgam fillings, again, reversing its earlier caution, which was issued presumably only to settle a lawsuit. This story is from Reuters
FDA says mercury dental fillings not harmful
Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:32pm EDT
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday silver-colored dental fillings that contain mercury are safe for patients, reversing an earlier caution against their use in certain patients, including pregnant women and children.
“While elemental mercury has been associated with adverse health effects at high exposures, the levels released by dental amalgam fillings are not high enough to cause harm in patients,” the FDA said, citing an agency review of roughly 200 scientific studies.
Still, in final regulations issued on Tuesday as part of an earlier legal settlement, it said the fillings were now considered “moderate risk” devices and will include details about the risks and benefits of the products. They will also carry warnings against their use in patients with mercury allergies or in poorly ventilated areas.
Millions of Americans have such fillings to patch cavities in their teeth and the FDA said it does not recommend patients have them removed. The fillings, also known as amalgams, are a combination of other metals and mercury, which at certain levels has been linked to brain and kidney damage.
In 2006, Moms Against Mercury and three other groups sued the FDA to have mercury fillings removed from the U.S. market. Later that year, an FDA panel of outside experts said most people would not be harmed but that more information was needed.
Mercury — whether in dental, vaccines, fish or other products — has generated much controversy. Some consumer groups contend the fillings can trigger a range of health problems such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Part of the problem is that while much is known about high exposures to heavy metals, questions remain about “what is happening at chronic low-level exposure over a lifetime,” said Urvashi Rangan, the director of technical policy for Consumer Reports, whose group was not part of the initial lawsuit.
But Susan Runner, acting director for the FDA division that oversees dental devices, said there was no “causal link” between amalgam fillings and health problems.
“The best available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that patients with dental amalgam fillings are not at risk,” she told reporters on a conference call.
Over the past 20 years, the agency has received just 141 reports of problems in patients with the fillings, she added.
That conclusion counters a statement the agency made last June that the fillings may cause health problems in pregnant women, children and fetuses.
The ADA, which represents the dental industry, backed the FDA’s decision not to restrict mercury fillings, saying alternatives are also considered “moderate risk” by the FDA.
“The FDA has left the decision about dental treatment right where it needs to be — between the dentist and the patient,” ADA President Dr. John Findley said in a statement.
But Charlie Brown, a lawyer for Consumers for Dental Choice, said poorer people or those who receive their health care through large institutions such as the U.S. military are more likely to receive the cheaper, silver-colored fillings and are at greater risk for harm.
“Most consumers, and most dentists, have already switched to the main alternative, resin composite,” said Brown, whose group was part of the lawsuit settlement last June that called on the agency to issue more specific rules. His group is now weighing its legal options, he said.
Moms Against Mercury President Amy Carson said she was disappointed in the FDA’s reversal. Her group, along with several others, filed a new petition with the FDA on Tuesday, again calling for a ban on mercury fillings, she added.
“FDA remains alone in the world in failing to protect children and pregnant women from mercury fillings. Since 1996, Canadian dentists have been told not to put mercury amalgam in children or pregnant women. Since 1998, British dentists have been told the same for pregnant women. Norway and Sweden have banned amalgam altogether. Regrettably, this rule should have meant the end of two-tiered dentistry: mercury for the poor and choice for the rest. Instead the FDA has failed to carry out its mission of protecting the public health,” concluded Brown.
Why the reversal? FDA reluctantly issued the warning, to settle a lawsuit, and now feels it can revert to its usual whitewashing of mercury. After all, if it conceded mercury in dental fillings poses a substantial danger, it might have to concede the same is true of mercury in vaccines. Mercury is a highly toxic element, dangerous in all forms, though the ability of the body to deal with mercury does depend on many factors, including what is bonded to the mercury. There is no safe dose of mercury; there are only levels that most people can handle by excreting it out of the body. While it is in the body, it wreaks havoc. There is no reason for any mercury to be in the body, except the human follies of using it to repair teeth and preserve vaccines, and burning coal, which releases mercury into the air and water, where it gets into the food chain.
Supposedly the mercury derived preservative, thimerosal, was removed from most childhood vaccines, but traces remain, meaning the manufacturers only removed most of it. This is a sick joke. Injecting any amount of mercury directly into the bloodstream is as reckless as it gets. This is a deadly poison. That the body has some ability to remove it does not prevent it from doing damage in the meantime. Mercury fillings are constantly releasing vapor, and to say the level of vapor is not high enough to be a risk is junk science at best. That is like saying, a little bit of cyanide will not hurt people, because if the dose is low enough, no immediate damage is apparent, and a healthy body might be able to repair whatever damage is caused. Poison is poison. That a low dose will cause only subtle damage does not make it safe, or not harmful; all it means is that the risk levels are deemed acceptable by FDA, so those making money by subjecting people to slow poisoning can continue to do so.