Los Angeles, CA, November 5, 2001 -- Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) announced today that she is introducing a bill that will warn consumers about the risks of Mercury in dental fillings and phase out the use of Mercury in dentistry over five years.

The bill is the first legislation on the federal level to address the issue of Mercury in dental fillings. So-called "silver" fillings are composed mainly of Mercury, a highly toxic material. California and several other states have recently enacted laws that address the health risks of Mercury.

"Today, I am announcing legislation to disclose and phase-out the last major use of Mercury in the human body," said Congresswoman Watson. "The fillings that most of us know as 'silver' are mainly composed of Mercury, not silver. Mercury is an acute neuro-toxin. It is the most toxic non-radioactive element and the most volatile heavy metal. It's time to remove Mercury from the practice of dentistry."

"It is no longer a question of if, but when, Mercury dental fillings will be history," said Charles G. Brown, the former West Virginia state Attorney General and lead attorney in the national fight to end the use of Mercury in dentistry. "Mercury has been -- or is being -- removed from all other health care uses, including in thermometers, vaccines and disinfectants. It is politically and medically untenable to be removing Mercury from all other medical uses and at the same time continuing to place it in peoples' mouths."

"I know from first hand experience the effect that Mercury fillings can have on one's health" said Anita Vazquez-Tibau, a Consumers for Dental Choice activist. "The medical risks -- particularly to pregnant women and children -- are great, and we must stop the use of Mercury in the dental profession as soon as possible."

Also speaking at the press conference were Suzanne Michel of Clean Water Action (see attached statement); Dr. George E. Schuchard, DDS of Beverly Hills, representing the American Academy of Biological Dentistry; and Dr. Donald Ware, MD.

Congresswoman Watson has a long record of working for disclosure of the risks of Mercury-based dental fillings. While a California State Senator in 1992, Rep. Watson authored a first-of-its-kind law that required the state Dental Board to issue a "Fact Sheet" on the risks of Mercury. Similar laws have since been adopted in Arizona and Maine.

In California over the past six months, the issue of Mercury-based dental fillings has become a subject of major controversy. In June, consumer groups filed suit against the American and California Dental Associations for deceptively calling mercury-based fillings "silver" and for secretly accepting payments from Mercury amalgam manufacturers while endorsing their product as safe.

In September the California Legislature voted to abolish the Dental Board and replace it with an entirely new Board, largely because of its refusal for nearly ten years to adopt a Fact Sheet that properly warned consumers of the dangers of Mercury fillings. Governor Davis signed the bill into law earlier this month (along with a bill outlawing Mercury thermometers), saying "Mercury is a persistent and toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the environment."



Background on the Dangers of Mercury and the Controversy about Mercury in Dentistry

"Mercury is a persistent and toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the environment."
Governor Gray Davis
October 10, 2001 press release on signing anti-Mercury legislation

"Mercury, a metallic chemical that is liquid at ordinary temperatures, has been linked to several cognitive and developmental ailments in the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, liver and lungs. It is especially damaging to young children and to fetuses. After mercury is vaporized in incinerators or dumped in sewage-treatment plants, it often gathers in bodies of water, where fish ingest it. People can be poisoned when they eat fish contaminated with mercury... Perhaps the most pervasive use of mercury is in the amalgam of metals used in most dental fillings."
"Bill Seeks to Ban Use of Mercury In a Variety of Common Products"
James C. McKinley Jr.
The New York Times, February 7, 2001

Mercury is universally recognized as an extremely dangerous toxin. So- called "silver" fillings are really @50% Mercury and only @25% silver. The amount of Mercury in one filling is colossal by scientific standards. One filling contains 750 milligrams of Mercury, enough to contaminate a small lake. The rest of the medical world is eliminating the use of Mercury in all other circumstances.

Mercury has been determined by the state of California to be a reproductive toxin (Prop. 65). It poses a particular risk to children and pregnant women, as well as other subpopulations (e.g. people with kidney disease or those who wear braces). A 1999 government report (by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the United States Public Health Service) says that the Mercury vapors from fillings go to the brain, which puts a child's developing brain at the most risk. The report further states that the Mercury goes through the placenta into the developing embryo and that it goes through the mother's breast milk into the baby.

Poor people are also at greater risk because state and federal medical insurance programs only pay for Mercury amalgam fillings because they are less expensive than other fillings.

While the American Dental Association still supports using Mercury fillings (and in fact receives a fee from Mercury amalgam manufacturers for endorsing their product), there is increasing opposition to the continued use of Mercury among dentists and other dental professionals. For example, smaller groups such as the Carmel-based American Academy of Biological Dentistry and the Orlando­ based International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology support an end to Mercury amalgam.