The facts about mercury from amalgam fillings

Posted on Jun 27, 2008 in Heavy Metals, Video Blog

An article by David Kennedy, DDS Past President, International Acad. of Oral Medicine & Toxicology

One of the primary reasons why the mercury from amalgam controversy has lasted so long is the volumes of misinformation that are pumped from both dental academia and the American Dental Association that gets quoted in the press as fact. The motto of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology is; “show me the evidence”. They don’t have any evidence of safety so they obfuscate what we do know and pontificate about relative risks. The IAOMT has enumerated numerous clear and cogent reasons to avoid using mercury fillings.

For a brief video of mercury being released from set mercury/silver fillings and a summary of the research funded by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology over the last 20 years watch the YouTube video “Smoking Teeth”.

Earlier criticism by advocates for continued mercury use in dentistry have been addressed in a follow-up video from the documentary film “The Beautiful Truth”.

There is a great deal of misinformation in the press that I will attempt to address with science. For example in the recent AP story:

* Science operates on “a precautionary principle,” said Dr. Karl Kieburtz, a University of Rochester neurologist who co-chaired the 2006 FDA advisory committee and praised the new warning. “For 99 percent-plus of people, there probably isn’t harm. But if there is a group of people who might be at risk, they should at least have the knowledge that may be so,” he said.

First be aware that the “precautionary principle” was triggered in 1985 when Dr. Murray Vimy, founder of the IAOMT, published a detailed series of experiments in the peer reviewed scientific literature firmly establishing that massive amounts of mercury intermittently vaporize from set dental amalgam in the mouths of humans especially after chewing.

The Precautionary Principle requires: “Preventative anticipation – taking action if necessary before scientific proof is available on the grounds that a delay in the action will cause damage to nature and society.”

There is no safe level of exposure to mercury therefore use should stop and that is exactly what the IAOMT called for in 1985. Our call for caution unfortunately was not heeded and as a result 50 tons a year more mercury has been implanted in American’s teeth.

His second remark about 99% of the people not being harmed is straight from the ADA’s play book and a quote from the 1984 joint ADA/National Institute of Dental Research review of the biocompatibility of metals in dentistry. At that meeting the NIDR and ADA both acknowledged that mercury was released from set mercury/silver amalgam fillings but characterized the amount as small and said that it would only be a problem for the 1% of the population who are allergic to mercury.

The first point is that the amount has never been found to be small.

The second point is that allergy is only one of a myriad of problem related to mercury intake. Mercury can damage virtually every system in the human body but the heart, kidneys, brain and immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The third point is that no research has ever found that only 1% of the population is allergic to mercury. The frequency of allergy apparently depends on the number and duration of mercury fillings present in the individual’s mouth. Djerassi and Berova published in 1969, “The percentage of positive results to the (mercury) patch test is 5.80% in people with up to 5-years-old restorations; while the percentage in persons whose restorations are older amounts to 22.52%.” They reported that among controls with no amalgam fillings 0% of those tested positive.

Implanting mercury/silver fillings exposes everyone present; the patient, staff and the dentist to mercury and will result in an inappropriate immune response in many.

* Dental workers make amalgam fillings by mixing liquid mercury with powdered ingredients, requiring special safety steps and filters to limit waste seeping back into the environment.

I would be most interested to learn what safety steps are required because the IAOMT can find no published protective requirements for employees exposed to mercury during their regular duties except for general exposure standards that are widely ignored and not monitored. We recently petitioned the California Occupational Safety Standards Board to enact a vertical standard that would require that staff members be adequately protected. They are presently evaluating our request. There are numerous studies that have found mercury causes harm to dentists and dental personnel.

As for seeping into the environment that too is incorrect. Only where a few municipalities or other protectors of the environment mandate mercury separators for dental offices is the mercury discharge dramatically limited.

During the Burton/Watson congressional hearing at USC the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control expert testified that only after they forced 100% of the mercury using or removing dentists to install mercury separators on their dental offices were they able to obtain a significant reduction in in sewer water mercury. 30 days after these inexpensive devices were installed they discovered a 90% reduction in mercury. He further testified that 100% of the mercury problem in San Francisco sewage was due to dental mercury.

When Dan Burton questioned the discrepancy between his early statement about the 90% reduction and his assertion that 100% was due to mercury leaking from amalgam he explained that the additional 10% was from mercury released from amalgam that passed through the gut of amalgam bearers.

Although the members of the IAOMT do not use mercury they do remove mercury consequently the IAOMT has strongly urged its members to voluntarily protect the environment by installing mercury separators.

* “We don’t want these choices taken away based on junk science. We don’t want them taken away based on misguided fears,” said Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a dental professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an American Dental Association adviser.

Dr. Edmond Hewlett the ADA spokesperson calls the scientific evidence that mercury is leaking from so called “Silver” fillings “Junk Science”. This is the first step of a PR approach to the issue and is called denigrate the opposition and is not a reasonable approach to a major public health concern. It is not clear what he calls “misguided fears” but it would be reasonable to be concerned that a time-release mercury implant is in many people’s teeth. Since the predominant source of human exposure to mercury is from mercury-leaking fillings this information should be given to the patient and not covered up with disinformation.

* They’re cheaper than alternatives ? roughly $100 for an amalgam filling versus $150 or more for a composite, Hewlett estimates ? and they’re known as particularly durable. Hewlett said two conditions that demand amalgams: Spots on back teeth that dentists can’t keep dry long enough for a composite filling to bond, and in people who forcefully grind their teeth.

There is so much in this paragraph that is incorrect it is hard to know where to start. First, everyone is in agreement that composite does not require that a major portion of tooth be removed in order to be placed. Thus, using composite as a first choice leaves more tooth intact. This translates to a lifetime of better dental health and cost savings.

A conservative composite will last longer and is easier to replace or repair than the old mercury/silver fillings. In the long run this will save both teeth and dollars. This looks to me like it is Dr. Hewlett who is fear mongering.

I practiced for 30 years in general dentistry and during that time I never once found an area that I could not keep dry long enough to place a composite filling so I am not sure what areas Dr. Hewlett is referring to that can’t be adequately restored using modern non-toxic fillings.

His final comment about using mercury/silver implants in people who grind their teeth is absolutely wrong. In 1987 Dr. Vimy installed slightly radioactive mercury/silver fillings in sheep in order to trace where the mercury released by chewing went. The results were shocking. In just 30 days mercury had distributed throughout the animal’s entire body. It was even found in the hoof!

At that time the ADA spokespersons criticized the experiment saying that “Sheep chew too much”. A person who habitually clenches or grinds their teeth would chew even more than sheep. Sheep chew about 8 hours a day and about the same as a teenager with gum. In a situation like Hewlett describes the recipient of the mercury filling would be exposed to enormous amounts of elemental mercury vapor. Clearly mercury/silver fillings are not suitable for people who chew with their teeth. The sheep experiments were duplicated with monkeys and exactly the same distribution pattern was observed.

* The agency still is studying whether the small amount of mercury vapor released by chewing and brushing is enough to cause neurologic disorders or other problems in youngsters. There have been only a handful of rigorous studies comparing children given either amalgam fillings or tooth-colored resin composite fillings that are mercury-free ? and those studies haven’t detected any brain problems.

The studies referred to in the AP story are apparently the horribly unethical Children’s Amalgam Trials that did not even tell the orphan’s guardian that they were going to be implanted with mercury fillings.

What kind government agency pays investigators to implant time-release mercury in small children in order to measure the impact of mercury on their brains? Would any parent sign their child up for a similar experiment using for example lead? They claimed to have not found brain problems but now acknowledge in the latest publication that they did find kidney problems and disproportionate harm to boys.

Before they even began the experiment the investigators skewed the population under investigation by eliminating all the children who already had mercury related neurological damage such as Autistic and ADD.

What the investigators did find was disproportionate harm to young boys.

Much has been made of the danger of mercury exposure to fetuses and during pregnancy but very little is being said about how much more toxic mercury is to some genetically susceptible individuals and especially to boys. Testosterone the male hormone and mercury form an extremely toxic complex that is much more toxic than mercury alone. Estrogen the female hormone apparently provides some protection from mercury.

The unethical Children’s Amalgam Experiment found disproportionate harm to the young boy’s kidneys. This is a complex sequence of events that can better be understood by a graph than by word descriptions. Figure 3 of the attached article shows the urine mercury first going up in all subjects who were implanted with mercury/silver fillings. But after 2 years the amount excreted through the urine began to decline in both boys and girls but the decline was greater in the boys. So dramatic in fact that by the end of the experiment the boys excreted no more mercury in their urine than the lucky children who had received the non-mercury releasing composite fillings. Over time the boys will accumulate ever more mercury.

The gene CPOX makes humans more vulnerable to neurological harm from mercury. Children who were CPOX positive were identified during these experiments but as yet over 2 years after the often repeated grandiose claims of amalgam safety were made the COPX data is not available of independent study. It is likely that when the various vulnerable subsets are analyzed individually that these experiments will show exceptional harm to these children. Prospective experiments on children with known neurotoxins are blatantly unethical.

Another genotype APOe is also associated with mercury accumulation in brain and linked to autism and Alzheimer’s. When you consider the susceptibility of boys, APOe and CPOX you have more than 50% of the population and not 1% as claimed by the ADA and quoted by Kieburtz.

Proof of Harm:

The original report on the [unethical] Children’s Amalgam Trials CAT stated that the children who were implanted with the time-release mercury/silver fillings received on average 2 fillings on day zero and about 1 filling annually thereafter. The graph from figure 3 from The Contribution of Dental Amalgam to Urinary Mercury Excretion in Children James S. Woods, et al Environmental Health Perspectives ? VOLUME 115 | NUMBER 10 | October 2007 clearly shows urinary mercury going down in the third year of the trial after rising dramatically for the first two years.

When the boys are analyzed separately from the girls the effect is even more obvious and in fact Dr. Woods has commented on the disproportionate harm to boys from their fillings. It is extremely difficult to understand how Woods can even write the first sentence since this research after 7 years firmly established the opposite. There was no significant difference in the boy’s urinary mercury than non-exposed controls.

“In conclusion, in the present study we describe a strong, positive correlation between mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings and urinary mercury excretion over a 7-year longitudinal course of amalgam treatment in children. However, significant differences in urinary mercury concentrations between boys and girls with comparable levels of amalgam treatment and times since placement suggest sex-related differences in mercury handling and, possibly, susceptibility to mercury toxicity. These findings are relevant within the context of children?s health risk assessment and suggest directions for future research to determine whether differential sensitivities to mercury between boys and girls do exist.”

From: The Contribution of Dental Amalgam to Urinary Mercury Excretion in Children James S. Woods, et al Environmental Health Perspectives ? VOLUME 115 | NUMBER 10 | October 2007