Mercury fillings – Safe or not?

Mercury is the third most toxic poison in the world, and you may not be aware of it, but it has been used in amalgam dental fillings since the 1830′s and most amalgams composed of at least 50% mercury. The debate over its use has been ongoing for some time; I certainly had all my amalgam fillings removed and replaced some ten years ago when I first started reading, and writing, about the potential health risks. The situation now seems to be polarising, and so I offer you both sides of the argument so you can make up your own mind.

In the red corner are the Scandinavians: on January 1st this year, Norway became the first nation to impose a total ban on the use of amalgam fillings in dental work. Previous laws forbid the use of mercury-containing fillings in more vulnerable segments of the population, such as pregnant women and children, but the new law is the first to forbid the use of the toxic metal without exemption. Mercury has also been banned from all other products produced, imported, exported, sold, and used in the country. Minister of Environment and Development, Erik Solheim, stated that “Mercury is among the most dangerous environmental toxins. Satisfactory alternatives to mercury in products are available, and it is therefore fitting to introduce a ban.” Sweden has now followed suit with a ban on mercury fillings that came into place on April 1st (2008), this year and Denmark and other EU countries are now contemplating similar moves.

In the Blue corner are Britain and the USA who do not accept that there is any problem with the mercury and say that all the negative claims are either unsubstantiated by rigorous scientific data or simply not significant enough to be of concern. They are backed up by a European Union scientific committee study which has claimed that amalgam fillings containing mercury pose no health risk to the human nervous system. The Committee said it had investigated claims of a link between amalgams and a variety of systemic conditions, particularly neurological and psychological or psychiatric effects.

They concluded that no risks of adverse systemic effects exist and the current use of dental amalgam does not pose a risk of systemic disease.

The findings reflect the opinions of some dentists and governments, who have insisted the material is safer and more durable than alternatives, but patients’ organisations have disputed the results, claiming amalgam is dangerous and that anyone carrying an average of 2.5 grams in their mouths is at risk. Another patient organisation in Spain said it rejected the provisional report because it was partial and ignored the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other scientists’ recommendations.

What do I think? Well, many European countries, including Britain, advise against the use of amalgam for children and pregnant women, due to its impact on brain development. In fact, research published in March 2006 shows neurodevelopmental disorders in children have decreased following the removal of thimerosal, a preservative containing mercury, from American childhood vaccines. This led to the World Health Organization urging that Thimerosal be banned in U.S. vaccines.

Amalgam fillings raise the level of mercury circulating in the blood as the mercury leaches from the filling into the body and it is believed to harm children’s normal development. Relatively low doses of mercury have been linked to adverse neuro-development and many people who have displayed sensitivity to the substance have reported improvements in health upon removal of the toxic fillings. It is often recommended that is removed in those with compromised immune systems and sufferering from immune responsive disorders such as ME.

As other types of composite fillings have become strong enough to replace amalgams under practically any circumstance, it would seem time to look realistically at phasing mercury out as a potential health hazard. If the health angle doesn’t convince you, perhaps the environmental one might do so. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, medical waste incinerators emit 70,000 pounds of mercury into the biosphere each year, making medical use of the metal one of the leading contributors to mercury pollution. If you are thinking of having a tooth filling replaced, talk to your dentist and if you are having mercury fillings replaced that needs to be done with great care to avoid dust from the filling being absorbed back into your body. Ask your dentist if they are experienced in this type of removal and if they are not, it would be sensible to seek out someone who does this as a regular part of their practice work.