EU faces pressure to ban mercury from mouths

EU faces pressure to ban mercury from mouths

LONDON – Mercury is a known poison that can damage the nervous system, so why is it still being used to fill cavities in peoples’ teeth? The European Union is grappling with this issue as it faces pressure to ban mercury-bearing “amalgams” that some patients’ organisations say are dangerous, and counterarguments from dentists and some governments, who say the material is safer and more durable than alternatives.

The EU has commissioned two working groups to report back by year’s end, one on mercury’s effects on the environment and the other on the link between amalgams and human health. The debate gives rise to strong emotions, particularly from anyone who has suffered from mercury poisoning.”I was off work for 18 months and had a telephone directory of symptoms,” said UK coordinator Michele Payne of the worldwide organisation DAMS (Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome).Mercury, which accounts for 50 per cent of an amalgam filling, cannot be degraded and persists in soil, water and living organisms and while high doses can be fatal, relatively low doses have been linked to adverse neuro-development impacts.Most countries advise against use of amalgam for children and pregnant women due to its negative effects on brain development, but patient organisations believe the rest of the population, carrying an average of 2,5 grams in their mouths, is also at risk.The amount may seem small, but it works out to 1 225 tonnes of mercury in the mouths of the population of Europe.”At least one percent of those who have dental amalgam could be affected by mercury,” university teacher Servando Perez Dominguez of the Spanish patients organisation Mercuriados said.One per cent account for some 4,9 million Europeans.”There are other alternatives that are safer …we try to tell people and even politicians as in the end it will be a political decision,” Perez Dominguez said.The list of effects from mercury poisoning goes from mild tremors due to neurological damage and kidney problems to autism and even Alzheimers, according to advocates for a European ban.Others say studies pointing to these symptoms are flawed.”There is no evidence that amalgam fillings cause anybody any sort of illness or unwellness, unless you are truly allergic to the materials in the amalgam fillings in which case removal of the fillings will cure the symptoms,” said Susie Sanderson, chairperson of the British Dental Association.Together with the Brussels-based Council of European Dentists, the association opposes a phase out or ban of amalgam.”It is important we have different materials for patients with different needs,” Mark Beamish, the council’s EU affairs officer, said, adding that some people were allergic to alternative materials such as composites and plastics.The use of amalgam has declined in most European countries as more people opt for aesthetic white composite fillings and in many countries dental hygiene overall has improved, resulting in fewer cavities.Nampa-ReutersThe debate gives rise to strong emotions, particularly from anyone who has suffered from mercury poisoning.”I was off work for 18 months and had a telephone directory of symptoms,” said UK coordinator Michele Payne of the worldwide organisation DAMS (Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome).Mercury, which accounts for 50 per cent of an amalgam filling, cannot be degraded and persists in soil, water and living organisms and while high doses can be fatal, relatively low doses have been linked to adverse neuro-development impacts.Most countries advise against use of amalgam for children and pregnant women due to its negative effects on brain development, but patient organisations believe the rest of the population, carrying an average of 2,5 grams in their mouths, is also at risk.The amount may seem small, but it works out to 1 225 tonnes of mercury in the mouths of the population of Europe.”At least one percent of those who have dental amalgam could be affected by mercury,” university teacher Servando Perez Dominguez of the Spanish patients organisation Mercuriados said.One per cent account for some 4,9 million Europeans.”There are other alternatives that are safer …we try to tell people and even politicians as in the end it will be a political decision,” Perez Dominguez said.The list of effects from mercury poisoning goes from mild tremors due to neurological damage and kidney problems to autism and even Alzheimers, according to advocates for a European ban.Others say studies pointing to these symptoms are flawed.”There is no evidence that amalgam fillings cause anybody any sort of illness or unwellness, unless you are truly allergic to the materials in the amalgam fillings in which case removal of the fillings will cure the symptoms,” said Susie Sanderson, chairperson of the British Dental Association.Together with the Brussels-based Council of European Dentists, the association opposes a phase out or ban of amalgam.”It is important we have different materials for patients with different needs,” Mark Beamish, the council’s EU affairs officer, said, adding that some people were allergic to alternative materials such as composites and plastics.The use of amalgam has declined in most European countries as more people opt for aesthetic white composite fillings and in many countries dental hygiene overall has improved, resulting in fewer cavities.Nampa-Reuters

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