Mercury Amalgam Fillings: Over and OUT!

The United States government has taken the paradigm-shifting position that mercury-containing “silver” dental fillings should be phased out.

This goal is articulated in a position paper prepared for the United Nations’ Mercury Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, which is charged with protecting human health and the environment from mercury.  The delegation from the United States proposed in late March 2011 that the multinational treaty on mercury be crafted “so that the agreement is able to achieve the phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out by all Parties [nations] of mercury amalgam upon the development and availability of affordable, viable alternatives.”[1]

The US proposes that the treaty “commit Parties to phase down the use of mercury amalgam” by several means, including “educating patients and parents in order to protect children and fetuses.”

By taking this position in the negotiation of a multinational treaty, the United States is standing for the human rights of children throughout the world to be protected from the insidious danger of mercury toxicity.

Nations that sign a treaty containing this provision will be committing themselves to educating their citizens about mercury’s potential hazards.  Without information about the hazards of a medical treatment, no one can truly consent to treatment.

In other words, the United States is standing for the human right of informed consent prior to medical treatment.

The new U.S. position on amalgams is momentous.   It overrules the most recent FDA pronouncement on the subject.  In July of 2009 the FDA issued a ruling stating that the amount of mercury vapor coming from fillings does not put adults and older children “at risk for mercury-associated health effects,” and that younger children must be safe because they would get even lower exposures.[2]

Along with this pronouncement of safety in 2009, the FDA deleted a statement that had appeared on the FDA website beginning in June of 2008:  “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.” The cautionary statement had been posted in consequence of a lawsuit that had been filed by consumer groups, on the grounds that FDA had failed to make any regulations concerning mercury fillings. [3]

(In December 2010 the FDA’s dental advisory committee recommended that the FDA take another look at the evidence of potential harm to children, nursing infants, and fetuses.)[4]

In its position paper, the U.S. delegation on mercury also advocates the development of safe containment facilities for mercury waste.

Believe it or not, this proposal is also pivotal.    No nation has yet created such a facility, although a few nations are investigating the matter.  A cut-back on world use of mercury—whether in dentistry or in industry and mining–will create the need for such a site.  Right now it is far cheaper to stockpile this hazardous waste in our mouths.  About 30 TONS of mercury are stored in Americans each year.[5]

How dare the delegation contradict the considered opinion of the FDA?    The treaty negotiation team’s lineup offers the answer.  The U.S. delegation comprises half a dozen State Department officials, another half dozen officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, one representative from the Council on Environmental Quality, one from the Department of energy—and one lonely member from the FDA.

Perhaps the State Department decided that brandishing mercury fillings tarnishes our international image.  Canada, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Japan, and Taiwan have already either banned amalgams altogether or prohibited their use in children and pregnant women.  Further, the State Department is not subject to lawsuits from mercury-damaged consumers and therefore need not protect the status quo.   Or perhaps the EPA has trumped the FDA.

Treaties trump regulations–according to the United States Constitution.

As Charles Brown, legal counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice points out,  we are announcing to the world that mercury fillings are passé.

The worldwide phase-out of mercury fillings is now main-stream medicine.  I salute the US delegation.

[1] The full text of the U.S. position paper may be found  at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) website.  (The paper is not dated, but the committee’s deadline for submissions was March 28, 2011.)  I am indebted to the analysis of Charles Brown, Legal Counsel for Consumers for Dental Choice, “U.S. Government Calls for the Phase-Out f Dental Mercury Amalgam…,” which appeared in the Bolen Report April 5, 2011. Information on the delegates  may be found in the UN’s records of participants in the first (June 2010) and second (January 2011) meetings of the International Negotiating Committee for mercury.


[2] A summary of the FDA’s Final Regulation on Dental Amalgam, July 28,  2009 appears on the FDA website.

[3]Mike Adams,  “FDA Declares Mercury Amalgams Safe for All,” Natural News August 11, 2009, accessed April 10, 2011.

[4] Robert Lowes, “FDA Hearing on Mercury-Based Dental Fillings Pleases Both Sides of Debate,” Medscape Medical News December 18, 2010, accessed April 10, 2011.

[5] Mercury in Americans’ amalgams amounted to 30.4 tons in 2004, a slight decrease from 30.8 tons in 2001. Northeast Waste Management Officials Association, Trends in Mercury Use Product: Summary of the Interstate Mercury Education & Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC) Mercury-Added Products Database June 2008, page 9, accessed April 12, 2011.

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