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Amalgam Protestors go to ADA's front door

By John McDonnell


More than a dozen demonstrators took to the sidewalk in front of the American Dental Association's Chicago headquarters Sept. 7. Carrying anti-amalgam signs, the group called on ADA leaders to stop supporting the use of mercury in dental fillings. "It is time we consumers go to the ADA's front door and tell them to say the 'm' word to the American people," says Leo Cashman, president of Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome Inc. (DAMS). "If people only knew the risks, no child in America would be given mercury amalgam fillings."

The protesters say the ADA admitted in a court filing several weeks ago that it receives money from mercury amalgam manufacturers. Protest organizers want to know how much money the ADA gets from those manufacturers and why they continue to take money for endorsing products. Amalgam manufacturers do give the ADA money for its Seal of Acceptance program, but association officials deny conflict of interest. Fees charged to manufacturers with products in the Seal program cover about 40 percent of its total cost, which runs about $1.5 million annually, says an ADA spokesperson. The balance is funded by membership dues. "A total of about $5,100 per year is generated from amalgam manufacturers with products in the Seal program," adds the ADA spokesperson.

DAMS members insist amalgam is dangerous to humans, especially pregnant women and children. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta disagree. "Analysis of currently available peer-reviewed scientific data does not support claims that individuals with dental amalgam restorations will experience adverse effects, including renal, neurological or developmental, except for very rare allergic or hypersensitivity reactions," says a CDC spokesperson.

CDC officials also say there is no proof that removal of amalgam can cure some illnesses as ADA protesters claim. "While there have been a number of case studies and anecdotal reports about adverse effects from amalgam, no published controlled studies have demonstrated systemic adverse effects," says the CDC. "There is also no scientific evidence that general symptoms are relieved by removal of existing amalgam restorations."

ADA officials say groups like DAMS prey on the fears of people with serious medical conditions by leading them to believe that costly dental treatment (removal and replacement of amalgam fillings) will cure any number of diseases. "There is no sound scientific evidence supporting a link between amalgam fillings and systemic diseases or chronic illness," ADA President Robert M. Anderton says. "This is a position shared by the ADA and all major U.S. public health agencies and is a matter of public record."

It appears as though the ADA is growing tired of amalgam protestors. In the September 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, Editor Lawrence Meskin writes: "It's the mercury in amalgam that has it's detractors dancing around like the Mad Hatter from 'Alice in Wonderland.' Attributing almost every conceivable health woe to a person's dental fillings, amalgam opponents state that these restorations release sufficient mercury to cause multiple sclerosis, or MS; Parkinson's disease; Alzheimer's disease; and a host of other conditions."

Meskin sternly addresses amalgam protestors at the end of that editoral. "Antiamalgamists, take note. Regardless of what you may think, there still is no sound scientific evidence supporting links between amalgam fillings and systemic diseases or chronic illness. However, if ongoing scientific inquiry ever were to indicate that amalgam is detrimental to the health and welfare of the public, I can assure you that dentistry would need no outside organization, group or individual to remind it of its obligation to do no harm."

In their own words ...

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dentalproducts.net grabbed its digital video camera and met the antiamalgamists who staged a protest at ADA headquarters Sept. 7. Though you've likely heard their argument before, we hope the following video/audio clips with three of the protestors will provide you with some added insight into an age-old debate. (You will need the Windows Media Player to view these clips.)

Karen Truskowski, DAMS Illinois coordinator. To view clip, select between the 56K or broadband versions.

Linda Brocato, DAMS member. To view clip, select between the 56K or broadband versions.

Boyd Haley, University of Kentucky, professor and chairman, department of chemistry. To view clip, select between the 56K or broadband versions.

It should be noted that the American Dental Association refuted several claims made by Haley at an April 25 hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives' committee on government reform. At the hearing, titled "Autism -- Why the increased rates? A one-year update," Haley testisfied against the use of mercury in dental amalgam. (View the clip above to hear what Haley has to say about the mercury in amalgam.)

The ADA's response to the federal committee -- penned by ADA President Robert M. Anderton, D.D.S. -- denies the existence of any "scientifically valid evidence linking either autism or Alzheimer's disease with dental amalgam.

"And there is no scientifically valid evidence demonstrating in vivo transformation of inorganic or mercury vapor into organo mercury species in individuals occupationally exposed to amalgam mercury vapor," Anderton said.

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