Poisoned by Mercury Fillings

Are Millions of Americans Being Poisoned by Their Own Dental Fillings?

By Jill Richardson   Thanks to Alternet
A controversial theory linking amalgam fillings and mercury poisoning is starting to gain scientific acceptance.

Kris Homme, a retired engineer, did not know what was happening to her. At age 33, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration — a disease that usually does not appear until old age. Not one to give up, she somehow managed to complete two graduate degrees with impaired vision. Then, in her 40s, she developed chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivities.

“I was pretty much housebound for a couple years,” she recalls. “I just didn’t have the strength to leave the house by myself. I was able to keep my house fragrance-free but I had trouble being in a crowd, like on a bus or in an audience where you’re sitting next to people because so many people wear fragrances. Or walking on the streets, the car exhaust would be overpowering.”

A friend suggested her problem might be mercury exposure from her dental fillings, but she dismissed the idea. After all, her neurologist had already tested her blood for mercury and did not find anything to worry about.

Homme had a mouth full of amalgam fillings, each of which is 50 percent mercury. The mercury in them was long thought to be inert, but scientists later discovered that some of the mercury is released as vapor and absorbed into the body. Still, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Dental Association maintained they were perfectly safe.

As an engineer, Homme cannot be easily fooled. Even when telling her own story, she repeatedly questions why anyone would want to hear one story when it cannot constitute proof of anything. Knowledge and facts come from carefully controlled, randomized, statistically significant scientific studies, not anecdotes and stories.

The theory that amalgam fillings caused mercury poisoning “all sounded so flaky,” she remembers. “The anti-mercury movement has a lot of unfortunate bedfellows so I dismissed the argument.”

What’s more, she had a degree in Environmental Health Sciences from UC Berkeley. “I just thought that if that was an issue it would have been covered in my prestigious degree program.”

Finally, her friend gave her a book to read, Amalgam Illness, Diagnosis, and Treatment by Andrew Hall Cutler. “I stayed up late, reading and crying. All my symptoms fit and all the theory fit, the theory about how it’s not going to show up in a blood test because you’re retaining it, you’re not excreting it. My whole world turned upside down when I realized my doctors and dentists were so wrong and my degree program was so inadequate and it was like, if I can’t believe any of that, what is true? Who can I believe?”

Today Homme is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the FDA, demanding it respond to several petitions that ask it to ban — or at least seriously restrict — the use of amalgam fillings. Other plaintiffs include the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, Moms Against Mercury, and the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), as well as several individuals. She’s also published a peer-reviewed paper summarizing new studies demonstrating the harm of amalgam fillings.

The FDA’s strongest evidence of the safety of amalgam fillings are two studies published in 2006 called the “Children’s Amalgam Trials.” One was conducted in New England, the other inPortugal. In them, hundreds of healthy children with low levels of mercury and lead, plenty of unfilled cavities and no previous amalgam fillings were divided into two groups. One group received amalgam fillings, and the other received composite fillings. The children were then monitored over a period of years for changes in mercury levels, IQ, memory and several other neurological tests. They also tracked major health problems in the children over the course of the study.

Both studies found higher levels of mercury in the urine of children who received amalgam fillings, but, on average, they found no significant differences in neurological development and function between the two groups. The New England study also tested kidney function and found no significant differences between the two groups.

But reanalysis of the data from these studies show that perhaps the amalgam fillings were not so benign.

As Homme points out, humans differ both in their exposure to mercury and their susceptibility to it. When a person who is highly susceptible to mercury is exposed to enough of it, he or she gets sick — even if the same dose would not cause problems for someone who is less susceptible.

Scientists have already identified several genes that cause increased susceptibility to mercury. One of them is called CPOX4. A 2012 study looked at a subset of 330 children from the Children’s Amalgam Trial conducted in Portugal and found that about 28 percent of them had the susceptible variant of the CPOX4 gene.

Rather than simply averaging the results of the amalgam group and the composite group, the researchers looked at the correlations between urinary mercury levels and neurological test results. Among boys (but not girls) who had the CPOX4 gene variant, the researchers found several significant neurobehavioral deficits associated with increased mercury exposure.

Three other studies also re-examined the data from the Portugal study. One found evidence that amalgam fillings are a “significant chronic contributor to Hg [mercury] body-burden.” A secondfound that children with the CPOX4 gene variant also had biomarkers of mercury-related kidney damage. The third found neurobehavioral deficits in children who had two other gene variants that made them more susceptible to mercury.

In other words, amalgam fillings impact on your health depends on your genes, your exposure (how many fillings you have and how long you’ve had them) and maybe your sex. But if you’re among the susceptible population and your exposure is high enough, it appears that you might suffer health consequences as a result.

These latest studies were all published between 2011 and 2013, but critics of amalgam fillings sounded the alarm long before then.

The story of U.S. regulation of amalgam fillings begins in 1976, when Congress passed theMedical Device Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Safety Act. The amendments required the government to place all medical devices into one of three classifications based on risk. The riskiest items would be put into Class III, which means they would require pre-market approval by the government to verify their safety and effectiveness before they could be sold.

Years went by, and the FDA did nothing. In 2006, it released a draft white paper on amalgam filling safety and held a two-day meeting with a panel of experts to discuss it. The experts voted down the white paper by a margin of nearly two to one.

The next year, Moms Against Mercury and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the FDA commissioner, asking the FDA (which still had not classified amalgam fillings) to remove the fillings from the market. The case was settled a year later, with the FDA promising to classify amalgam fillings by July 28, 2009.

A few days before the deadline, Moms Against Mercury and others submitted a Citizens Petition, again asking the FDA to ban amalgam fillings, or — if it was unable to do that — classify them as Class III and “seek strict proof of safety and effectiveness” before allowing them to be sold. At the very least, the group asked the FDA to place restrictions on the use of amalgam fillings in the most susceptible populations, such as pregnant women and children. Additionally, they called on the FDA to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment for amalgam fillings.

Days later, the FDA issued a final rule, classifying dental amalgam fillings as Class II. Class II medical devices are subject to what the FDA calls “special controls,” which might include testing or warning labels, but they do not require any FDA approval before they are allowed on the market.

The petitioners almost immediately submitted a second petition, this one asking the FDA to reconsider its classification. At the time, scientists already knew the significance of the CPOX4 gene variation. The petitioners also disputed the FDA’s estimation of how much mercury one was exposed to from amalgam fillings, particularly because the FDA ignored children under six and assumed that nobody got more than 10 amalgam fillings. And they felt that some of the FDA’s data was out of date.

One important part of the debate is the idea of a “reference concentration,” the amount of mercury one can be exposed to without “appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime,” even for sensitive individuals.

In 1995, the EPA set its reference concentration for elemental mercury (the type of mercury in amalgam fillings) at 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter. (Jim Love, the lawyer who filed the petitions on behalf of Moms Against Mercury and others, calls their number “outdated.”) California’s EPA set its reference concentration 10 times lower, at 0.03 micrograms per cubic meter.

Using 2001 to 2004 population statistics, a 2011 study estimated that, using the U.S. EPA’s reference concentration, 67.2 million were getting too much mercury from their fillings. The number of Americans absorbing an unsafe level of mercury from their fillings jumps to 122.3 million if one uses California’s lower reference concentration instead.

In other words, how much mercury are Americans getting from their fillings, and how much mercury equals too much? According to the FDA, Americans are not getting too much mercury from their fillings, and according to the petitioners — and the 2011 study — they are. Love, the petitioners’ lawyer, feels, “It’s beyond debate based on the weight of the evidence that we’re getting too much mercury.”

After several years without a response from the FDA, the group filed an addendum to their petition with updated science in 2013. Love is passionate about the cause.

“If we do clinical studies, are we going to find people with neurobehavioral harm?” he asks. “Are we going to find people with impaired kidney function? The answer is yes, and those studies have come out also. So when you talk to a dentist and he says there isn’t any evidence, ask him if he’s read our 2013 petition. I wouldn’t have filed the petition if I didn’t think the evidence was there.”

Now, in 2013, the FDA has yet to respond to the petitions. On behalf of his clients, Love has filed a lawsuit against the FDA.

“It’s a very simple lawsuit,” he says. “It’s under the Administrative Procedure Act. FDA is duly obligated to respond to our petition. They haven’t done that. They are allowed 180 days by statute and they can ask for and receive more time.”

The 180-day mark passed long ago, in 2010. The plaintiffs cannot force the FDA to ban amalgam fillings, but they can push the FDA, through the courts, to respond to their petitions. And that’s what they are trying to do.

“We don’t think there is an intellectually honest response that can continue to justify the ongoing use of mercury fillings,” continues Love. “Our contention is that the court should and almost certainly will compel the FDA to file a response to our citizens’ petitions.”

He adds, “In our complaint, we spell out the fact that the largest purchaser of amalgam fillings is the US government and they supply them to the indigent, those on welfare, the US military, those on Indian reservations, and as far as we can tell from where we sit, other alternatives are not available … One of our plaintiffs in fact is in prison. He would like his amalgam fillings removed.” But since the government says the fillings are safe, the prisoner is stuck with them.

Initially, Love thought that amalgam fillings were going the way of cassette tapes and VCRs. “Lots of people get composite fillings [instead of amalgam] because they are white and they are more attractive.” But, it turns out that even today, the majority of new fillings are still amalgam.

As the insurance company Delta Dental notes, tooth-colored composite fillings are more expensive than amalgam fillings and sometimes insurance companies do not cover them, or only cover them in teeth visible in a patient’s smile. The last time I had dental insurance, my insurance would have covered 90 percent of the cost of amalgam fillings but about half the cost of composite fillings. I found that out only after the dentist had placed several composite fillings in my mouth and the receptionist handed me a large bill. If I were informed of the cost difference in advance, would I have opted for mercury?

If you are worried about amalgam fillings in your mouth, you can have them removed. Kris Homme, who had hers removed in 2008, cautions that you should seek out a safe removal specialist because “a normal dentist might not use proper precautions.”

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.”


Heavy metal fish: How mercury ends up on your plate

By Peter Hanlon  25 Jul 2012 2:59 PM

Cross-posted from Ecocentric Thanks to Grist

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Look at any seafood guide and you’re bound to come across the occasional red flag with an ominous warning: “High in Mercury.” Scary enough, but what exactly does that mean? Just how is mercury winding up in the fish on your plate?

Mercury itself isn’t a bogeyman, as it occurs naturally at low levels in rock, soil, and water throughout the world. But about half of all mercury released into the atmosphere today comes from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, with contributions from waste incineration, mining, and other industrial activities. This mercury pollution falls directly into the ocean and other water bodies or onto land, where it can be washed into waterways. In this form, mercury poses little danger because living things can get rid of it quickly. But bacteria convert mercury as it’s carried down from the ocean surface, turning it into a highly toxic form called methylmercury.

The food chain takes it from there, as methylmercury is absorbed by phytoplankton, which are gobbled up by zooplankton, which are then feasted upon by small fish and onwards and upwards as the amount of the toxin grows in ever-accumulating quantities. The largest predatory fish in the sea, like sharks and swordfish, can have mercury concentrations in their muscles — the meat of the fish — that are 10 million times higher than those of their surrounding habitat.

Of course, the only level higher on the food chain than the largest fish is occupied by humans. And so accordingly, seafood is the source of nearly all the methylmercury that we acquire in our bodies. There’s still much to be learned about the effects of methylmercury on adults — susceptibility to mercury could be genetic, or the result of diet or stress. But there is little debate that methylmercury presents the greatest risk to fetuses, infants, and children, whose growing brains and nervous systems can be adversely affected.

So how do we reduce our exposure to mercury? The answer requires both difficult changes to the world’s energy supply and simpler consumer choices.

When it comes to energy, the good news is that, despite major pushback from the power industry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to reduce 90 percent of the mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants survived a recent Senate vote. Since half of all human-generated mercury released in the United States comes from coal power plants, that’s a huge step forward towards safer fish. But the bad news is that even as the U.S. is about to choke off its mercury emissions, Asia is filling the void, because two-thirds of human-generated mercury now originates from the rapidly industrializing region. Scientists are seeing strong indications that those emissions are a major source of mercury in the North Pacific Ocean. Consider mercury just one more reason why the world should shift away from burning fossil fuels and towards renewables.

Some low-mercury options. Click for full chart (PDF).

As far as consumer choices, a new report [PDF] about fish and mercury from the Blue Ocean Institute says it best: The answer isn’t to avoid seafood, it’s to avoid mercury. Particularly for pregnant or nursing women, as well as young children, the risks of mercury are significant enough to cut out high-mercury fish from their diet. But since all fish contain at least traces of methylmercury, what fish can we eat and how much? The Food and Drug Administration mercury guidelines are confusing and their suggestions questionable, but you can take matters into your own hands and try online mercury calculators from NRDC and GotMercury.org. Or check out graphics that clearly illustrate the fish with the highest and lowest levels [PDF] of mercury or suggested monthly servings.

It turns out those red flags on seafood guides don’t just represent health warnings about mercury, but remind us how the food we eat, the energy we use, and the water we depend upon are all inextricably linked.

Peter Hanlon is a Senior Research and Policy Analyst for the GRACE Water and Energy Programs. Peter has worked for numerous organizations on issues ranging from estuarine health to watershed management, land use planning, and renewable energy.


FDA Admits Vaccines Still Contain Mercury

FDA admits in court case that vaccines still contain mercury

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) It is a common myth today that the vaccines administered to children no longer contain the toxic additive thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative linked to causing permanent neurological damage. But a recent federal case involving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revealed that, contrary to this widely-held belief, thimerosal is actually still present in many batch vaccines, including in the annual influenza vaccine that is now administered to children as young as six months old.

Filed by a citizen-backed coalition advocating vaccine safety, the lawsuit against the FDA alleged that the agency’s continued endorsement and approval of thimerosal as a vaccine additive is a serious public health threat, especially since safer alternatives already exist and are widely used voluntarily by many vaccine manufacturers. But Judge Brett Kavanaugh, siding with antiquated pseudoscience, decided that thimerosal is not a health threat, and that those who wish to avoid it can simply choose thimerosal-free alternatives.

Ignoring the evidence of thimerosal’s dangers brought before him on behalf of the millions of children across the country who continue to be injected with this mercury-based additive, Judge Kavanaugh declared that the plaintiffs, which include groups like the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CMFD), did not have proper standing to file the lawsuit. And in the process, both he and the FDA inadvertently admitted that thimerosal is still present in many childhood vaccines, which counters popular claims to the contrary.

FDA admits on its website that thimerosal is still in vaccines

The fact that Judge Kavanaugh refused to hear the case is tragic in and of itself, as thimerosal, which is composed of 50 percent mercury, has been proven to cause serious health damage. But what may be even worse is the fact that many people falsely believe that thimerosal is not even included in vaccines anymore, which is leading them to blindly allow them to be administered to their children. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA have continued to provide dubious and misleading information on the subject, which the mainstream media has been complicit in spreading over the years.

But the FDA explains, in no uncertain terms, directly on its website that thimerosal is still added to certain vaccines. For this reason alone, it is crucial that parents who choose to vaccinate their children ask for an ingredients list for each and every vaccine before allowing them to be administered to their children.

“While the use of mercury-containing preservatives has declined in recent years with the development of new products formulated with alternative or no preservatives, thimerosal has been used in some immune globulin preparations, anti-venins, skin test antigens, and ophthalmic and nasal products, in addition to certain vaccines,” writes the FDA on its Thimerosal in Vaccines page (http://www.fda.gov).

Don’t believe the lie: Thimerosal is eventually converted by the body into highly-toxic inorganic mercury

Another myth often spread by thimerosal advocates claims that the ethylmercury compounds that compose roughly 50 percent of the preservative are not actually harmful because they are different from the type found in a can of tuna. But a comprehensive review conducted by Dr. Paul G. King has proven otherwise, showing that ethylmercury is first metabolized by the body into toxic methylmercury, which is then metabolized into inorganic mercury (http://www.infowars.com).

Both methylmercury and inorganic mercury are listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as toxic substances responsible for causing neurological problems, brain disorders, nervous system illnesses, gastrointestinal problems, kidney failure, respiratory illness, and death (http://www.epa.gov/hg/effects.htm).

Sources for this article include: