The World Health Organization urges “switch” away from amalgam
Great news from Charlie Brown at Consumers for Dental Choice. I can’t say it much better than he did, so you can read his letter verbatim, below.
In a clear sign that dentistry’s amalgam era is fading, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) just released its long-awaited report on dental amalgam. In Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration, WHO urges “a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam.
“[F]or many reasons,” WHO explains, “restorative materials alternative to dental amalgam are desirable.” The report describes three of these reasons in detail:
- WHO determines that amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury”: WHO concludes that amalgam poses a serious environmental health problem because amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment, including the atmosphere, surface water, groundwater, and soil. WHO says “When released from dental amalgam use into the environment through these pathways, mercury is transported globally and deposited. Mercury releases may then enter the human food chain especially via fish consumption.”
- WHO determines that amalgam raises “general health concerns”: While the report acknowledges that a few dental trade groups still believe amalgam is safe for all, the WHO report reaches a very different conclusion: “Amalgam has been associated with general health concerns.” The report observes, “According to the Norwegian Dental Biomaterials Adverse Reaction Unit, the majority of cases of side-effects of dental filling materials are linked with dental amalgam.”
- WHO determines that “materials alternative to dental amalgam are available”: WHO concludes that “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available” – and cites many studies indicating that they are superior to amalgam. For example, WHO says “recent data suggest that RBCs [resin-based composites] perform equally well” as amalgam. And compomers have a higher survival rate, says WHO, citing a study finding that 95% of compomers and 92% of amalgams survive after 4 years. Perhaps more important than the survival of the filling, WHO asserts that “Adhesive resin materials allow for less tooth destruction and, as a result, a longer survival of the tooth itself.”
We have come a long way. Less than a year ago, dental trade groups were circulating an unedited and unreviewed draft of this report to government officials, implying that it was WHO’s final position. But the draft was riddled with factual errors and scientifically unsupported claims. Consumers for Dental Choice – working with non-governmental organizations, scientists, and environmentalists from around the globe – organized a letter-writing campaign to insist that the draft be immediately withdrawn, accurately rewritten, and properly reviewed.
And it worked! Now WHO has removed all claims of amalgam’s safety. Now WHO has committed itself to “work for reduction of mercury and the development of a healthy environment.” Now “WHO will facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials.”
Thank you to everybody who urged WHO to take this important step to protect future generations from dental mercury.
It’s time for the U.S. FDA to catch up with the world – and we need your help. FDA’s support for amalgam is radically inconsistent with WHO’s new position. Please contact Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director of the FDA Center for Devices, at
Fax: 301-847-8149 & 301-847-8109
Mail: 10903 New Hampshire Ave., WO66-5431, Room 5442, Silver Spring MD 20993-0002
Here is a sample letter:
Dear Dr. Shuren:
In its recent report, the World Health Organization concludes that dental amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” and raises “general health concerns.” In light of these serious problems, WHO calls on health authorities like FDA to take action now: “Health authorities can play an active role in advocacy for use of dental materials alternative to amalgam…Directives can be set up for provision of dental care incorporating concerns for oral health and the environment.”
The WHO report says “Materials alternative to dental amalgam are available.” In particular, “Alternative restorative materials of sufficient quality are available for use in the deciduous [baby] dentition of children” – the population whose developing neurological systems are most susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of dental mercury according to FDA. So there is no excuse for subjecting children to the risks associated with dental mercury exposure.
FDA needs to stop amalgam use in children immediately and join WHO in working for a switch to the many mercury-free alternatives to amalgam.
Thank you for working with us to protect everyone worldwide from mercury fillings!
— Charlie, 18 October 2011
Charles G. Brown
National Counsel, Consumers for Dental Choice
President, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry
316 F St. NE, Suite 210, Washington DC 20002