I came across something interesting on a natural news website. It said that the United States had signed some kind of worldwide agreement a couple of years ago, agreeing to phase out mercury. It also said that several international groups were petitioning the FDA to take action because nothing is being done yet. I have not heard anything about America signing any such agreement. Wouldn’t this have made national news if officials admitted that mercury fillings are dangerous? I don’t have a holistic dentist in my area, and nobody seems to know anything about this. Is there any truth to the story or is it an urban legend? — Laurel
There is some truth to what you’re saying, and it doesn’t take a holistic dentist to find the information. Actually, any dental office that handles amalgam (mercury) fillings should be aware of it, simply because it involves proper handling of mercury. As you noted, the story didn’t get much press at all, and there’s no real evidence that the United States took any kind of action after signing in November of 2013.
The treaty was actually devised by the United Nations, after several years of collaboration. It’s called the Minamata Convention on Mercury, in honor of a Japanese city that was devastated by Mercury poisoning. Minamata disease, as it’s called, sickened 2,265 people, killing 900 of them. Though the illnesses started in 1956, it persisted until local fishermen began to demand answers in 1959. Perhaps more alarming, is the fact that it took the government a full 12 years from the start of the incidents to determine the cause- a chemical plant was dumping mercury into the Minamata Bay.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury does not focus specifically on dental fillings. It’s geared towards keeping waterways unpolluted, though the amalgam fillings that are commonly used in dentistry play a role in that. The United Nations has the entire text of the document posted on their website (Dental amalgam provisions appear on page 24.).
It was recently reported that 60 environmental groups wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to push the FDA to make the changes needed to become compliant with the Minamata Convention on Mercury. A key distinction should be made here, though. Their worry is regarding mercury in the environment, not specifically dangers associated with amalgam fillings. However, the handling of leftover amalgam, and amalgam that has been removed from teeth, can have an impact in the amount of mercury in the environment, if not handled properly.
The FDA still says amalgam fillings are safe for most people. If you prefer to take a more cautious approach, and want to be treated by someone who will take extra precautions to protect the environment (and you), while waiting for the FDA to take action, it may be worth the drive to visit a holistic dentist.
This blog post is brought to you by Des Moines cosmetic dentist, Dr. Phelan Thomas. For more information on the services he provides, please visit his Des Moines cosmetic dentist website.