By Tom Harrigan
ANGELES -- An attorney who has taken the American Dental
Association to court in several states over the amount
of mercury used in fillings was the target of a
defamation lawsuit filed Tuesday by the organization.
Shawn Khorrami is involved in
lawsuits in California, Ohio, Maryland and Georgia
against the ADA, its state affiliates and others for
allegedly endorsing amalgam filling material with a high
content of mercury compounds.
The Chicago-based ADA, with
141,000 members, is accusing him of conducting an
"orchestrated campaign of lies and distortion to
promote himself and his law firm."
The organization wants
Khorrami to stop the action as well as pay punitive and
Khorrami called the
complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles,
"a desperate attempt on the part of the ADA to
further conceal the truth from the public."
"We stand firmly by the
allegations made in our lawsuits: The ADA has withheld
information about the dangers of mercury dental fillings
from the American public. Our cases brought this issue
to light and now the ADA is responding with this
baseless complaint. This is similar to the smear tactics
used by the tobacco industry when they were
challenged," Khorrami said in a statement.
Dental activists say what are
commonly called silver fillings actually contain about
25 percent silver by weight and about 50 percent
mercury. Mercury exposure can cause cancer, birth
defects and nerve damage. But scientific studies on the
effects of mercury in amalgam -- the term referring to
alloys of mercury -- have been largely inconclusive.
Amalgam fillings cost about
half as much as other fillings, including plastic and
porcelain, and last longer.
The most recent lawsuit
handled by Khorrami, filed in Georgia last month, seeks
damages that could exceed $100 million. It claims
mercury from dental fillings, vaccine preservatives and
power plants with emissions that contain mercury caused
or worsened the conditions of nine autistic children.
The ADA lawsuit said Khorrami
has wrongly accused the organization of defrauding and
endangering the public and of pressuring dentists to use
amalgam fillings because the ADA has a vested economic
interest in the material.
The ADA "has no
financial (or other economic) stake in dental amalgam or
the use of mercury," the organization said in its
Khorrami said Tuesday the ADA
receives fees for its seal of approval on material used
On the Web:
American Dental Association:
Attorney Shawn Khorrami:
'campaign of lies'
ADA sues 'self-promoting' L.A.
lawyer for defamation
By James Berry
A Los Angeles attorney who notes on
his own Web site that he "has been extensively
involved in [amalgam] litigation with the American
Dental Association" has promoted himself and his
law practice through a campaign of "lies and
distortion" against the ADA, the Association
alleges in a defamation suit filed May 14.
Attorney Shawn Khorrami has used news
releases and his Web site to spread "false,
defamatory and malicious accusations" that the ADA
is "defrauding and endangering the lives of the
American public" by supporting the use of dental
amalgam restorations, the ADA says in its civil
complaint, filed in Los Angeles U.S. District Court,
Central District of California.
The Association has requested a jury
trial and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. ADA
officers and trustees authorized the lawsuit at their
In a statement on the suit, ADA
President D. Gregory Chadwick said the Association could
not stand idly by and allow Mr. Khorrami to "impugn
the reputation of the ADA" in an effort to
"erode the public trust that we have built through
more than 140 years of caring for the nation's oral
Dr. Chadwick said the ADA welcomes
"fair and honest debate" on all aspects of
dental care, but cannot tolerate "libelous,
Among other allegations, the complaint
says Mr. Khorrami has accused the ADA of exerting
"undue and unfair pressure" on dentists to
continue using amalgam because the Association has a
"vested economic interest" in the material.
In truth, the ADA "has no
financial (or other economic) stake in dental amalgam or
the use of mercury," the Association says in its
complaint. It says the defendant's "self-promoting
campaign of lies and distortion targeting the ADA is
based on defamatory statements that Khorrami published
with reckless disregard for their truth or
The Association, notes the complaint,
has filed suit "to vindicate its reputation"
and to stop the defendant's "campaign of
The ADA says Mr. Khorrami is well
aware that many leading scientific and consumer
organizations, independent of the Association, have
attested to the safety of dental amalgam. Findings from
six of those organizations are cited in the ADA's
Dr. James B. Bramson, ADA executive
director, notes that amalgam is just one of a wide range
of dental materials that the Association evaluates to
help dentists and patients choose safe and effective
Added Dr. Bramson, "The ADA is a
strong proponent of choice, with patients and their
dentists discussing the full range of treatment options,
including filling materials, and together deciding what
is clinically appropriate."
Thanks to the ADA's efforts in
education, research and professionalism, he said,
Americans enjoy the highest standard of oral health care
in the world.
"A lot of good people worked hard
to achieve this standard, and to build and maintain the
ADA's good name," said the executive director.
"We will not capitulate to the calculated,
self-promotional aims of the defendant. We will protect
the good name of the ADA from such unwarranted,
text of the complaint is available online.
Promotes Lawsuits, Not Health
Friday, May 10,
By Steven Milloy
Junk science has united quite the political odd
couple - Reps. Diane Watson,
D-Calif., and Dan Burton, R-Ind. They recently
co-sponsored a bill to end the use of mercury in dental
The bill would: ban dental amalgam containing mercury
from children under 18 and pregnant and lactating
women; require dentists to warn patients that mercury is
"highly toxic" and poses "health
risks"; and phase out mercury amalgam by 2007.
Rep. Watson, a Congressional Black Caucus member from
Watts who claims to be "chemically sensitive,"
has targeted mercury-containing dental amalgam since
CBS’ 60 Minutes spotlighted the scare in
Rep. Burton, the anti-Clinton lightning rod, only
recently converted to anti-mercury-ism. Burton blames
thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in
vaccines, for causing his grandson’s autism.
Also in on the mercury scare are -
who else - unscrupulous
personal injury lawyers. Class action lawsuits have been
filed against the American Dental Association and the
California and Maryland state dental associations
seeking the return of monies paid for mercury-containing
fillings - the great majority
of fillings ever done.
Lawsuits alleging thimerosal causes autism also have
been filed against vaccine manufacturers.
As to mercury in dental fillings, the lawsuits are
among the best evidence that mercury in amalgam is
harmless. Though the complaints allege that
mercury-containing amalgam is harmful, they contain no
specific allegations of harm to anyone.
This is hardly surprising.
Mercury has been a major ingredient of dental amalgam
(35-42 percent) for more than 150 years. No other
filling material has been proven to be safer, more
durable and more cost-effective.
The National Institutes of Health reports only about
100 documented cases of allergy to mercury
mentioned in the scientific literature since 1906 -
despite billions of uses of mercury amalgam and
tens of millions more of thimerosal-containing vaccines.
Mercury can have toxic effects on the nervous
system - but only at
sufficiently high exposures. As is the basic rule in
toxicology, it is the dose that makes the poison.
Paracelsus, the father of this principle, successfully
used this principle -
and mercury - to treat
syphilis in the 16th century.
Fillings containing mercury typically emit about 1-3
millionths of a gram (micrograms) per day. An individual
might be unavoidably exposed to another 5-6 micrograms
of mercury through food, water and air. Such exposures
are well below the World Health Organization’s
"acceptable daily intake" for mercury, about
30 micrograms per day.
Keep in mind that the ADI is not a "safety"
level; it’s a level set by regulatory agencies that is
anywhere from tens to thousands of times below dose
levels reported to cause biological effects in animal
experiments. The ADI is set well below effect levels to
provide a wide margin of safety for potential exposures.
Amalgam expert Dr. Rod Mackert says even the most
sensitive individual would need about 450 fillings
before exhibiting even slight symptoms of mercury
Finally, even the hyper-cautious Food and Drug
Administration concluded in March, 2002, that "No
valid scientific evidence has ever shown that amalgams
cause harm to patients with dental restorations, except
in the rare case of allergy."
But why let a lack of factual support get in the way
of a feel-good law and a chance at the lawsuit jackpot?
Rep. Burton’s anti-mercury rationale and the
vaccine-related lawsuits are similarly deficient.
It’s true many children may have been exposed to
relatively high levels of mercury through vaccines
preserved with thimerosal. Even so, there’s no
evidence these exposures harmed any child -
a point reaffirmed by FDA researchers in a May 2001
article in the journal Pediatrics.
Moreover, no one knows what causes autism. A National
Institutes of Health working group concluded in 1995
that autism likely was mostly genetic in origin. No
evidence indicates that late-pregnancy or after-birth
events - including extensively
studied mass mercury poisonings -
are associated with autism.
Burton’s desperate rush to blame an after-birth
event for causing autism isn’t unusual.
Autistic behavior becomes apparent as children
progress from saying a few words to generating more
complex language, at ages of 16-36 months. Parents whose
children "turn" autistic often erroneously
associate the onset of autistic behavior with some
contemporaneous event such as vaccination.
But public alarm about vaccine safety can be a public
health problem. Outbreaks of measles, for example,
occurred in the U.K. and Ireland where many worried
parents shunned the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Instead of filling our minds with fear and the U.S.
Code with needless laws (and our courtrooms with
meritless lawsuits), Reps. Watson and Burton and
the personal injury lawyers should fill themselves, as
appropriate, with facts and scruples.
Steven Milloy is the publisher of
JunkScience.com , an adjunct
scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of Junk
Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and
Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).
to the Writer