FDA admits mercury fillings may be unsafe

In a dramatic reversal, the FDA has modified its long-standing assertion that mercury in dental fillings is completely harmless. This comes in the wake of a class-action lawsuit settlement in June 2008.

Amalgam fillings have a silver color and are about 50 percent mercury. They release toxic mercury vapors into the mouth which are absorbed by the body as people chew and drink liquids.

During a several-hour negotiation session in the case of Moms Against Mercury et al. v. Von Eschenbach, Commissioner, et al., the FDA agreed to change its Web site on amalgams. Gone are all of the FDA’s claims that no science exists that amalgam is unsafe, that other countries have acted for environmental reasons only, and that the 2006 Scientific Panel vote affirmed amalgam’s safety.

The FDA’s Web site now states: “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses. Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner.”

The American Dental Association, however, is still standing firm, saying amalgam is: “a safe, affordable and durable material that has been used in the teeth of more than 100 million Americans.” Since the FDA is not restricting the use of mercury, dentists’ offices are not prohibited from using amalgam fillings.

Dr. Nicholas Meyer of Scottsdale, co-founder of the Arizona Holistic Dental Association, said, “It is unfortunate that the federal agency charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the health and welfare of the American public has shirked that duty, and it took a lawsuit and persistence to hold their feet to the fire to effect this change.  Now we have to watch them to see that they actualize their mandate.”

The FDA’s change in policy came after a tremendous amount of advocacy — petitions, Congressional hearings, state fact sheet laws, Scientific Advisory Committee hearings, support letters and, finally, a class action lawsuit.


Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 4, August/September 2008.

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