by Charlie Brown Consumers for Dental Choice
Today, we celebrate the one year anniversary of the creation of Health Liberty – a nonprofit coalition formed by Mercola.com, National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Fluoride Action Network (FAN), Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), Organic Consumers Association (OCA), and Consumers for Dental Choice, to help protect every American's freedom to make voluntary health choices.
Now we're taking a new approach: Highlighting the serious environmental health problems caused by dental mercury at the international level. Each partner-organization has a rich history of advocacy and active campaigning for change and better access to truly empowering health information. Over the past year, Consumers for Dental Choice has fought the battle against mercury dental fillings on many fronts, including:
- Leading the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, the coalition at the mercury treaty sessions seeking to have the treaty address amalgam
- Organizing strategic projects in West Africa, South Asia, and Australia
- Sending strong regional teams of local non-profit leaders, dentists, and environmentalists to key meetings in Pretoria, Brussels, Kuala Lumpuer, and Brasilia
- Commissioning the economics report "The Real Costs of Dental Mercury," which demonstrates that – counting the horrid environmental costs – amalgam is significantly more expensive (up to $87/filling) than mercury-free fillings
- Winning a number of city resolutions supporting mercury-free dentistry at the local level
- Obtaining consumer fact sheets to warn parents about neurological risks at the state level, and
- Urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop dental mercury at the national level
What You Need to Know About Dental Amalgam
Amalgam was introduced in the Civil War era by the new American Dental Association, which won a political battle with the dentists of the day, who said using mercury in oral health care is malpractice. Today, more so than ever before, we know that dental amalgam, which is 50 percent mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can cause far-reaching problems, such as:
- Exposure to mercury, the most toxic and more vaporous of the heavy metals, can harm your kidneys, and permanently damage your child's developing neurological system, and even kill your unborn child in the womb.
- To implant amalgam, a dentist drills out healthy tooth matter in order to carve the crater necessary for amalgam placement – a primitive process that irreversibly weakens tooth structure. With a damaged tooth structure and with a metal-based filling that expands and contracts with temperature changes, teeth with amalgam are much more likely to crack years later, necessitating additional dental work.
- Amalgam is a workplace hazard, especially for young female dental workers who experience an elevated rate of reproductive failures.
- Dental mercury is the number one source of mercury in our wastewater, so dentists are handing the clean-up bill for their pollution to taxpayers and water ratepayers.
So why do 50 percent of US dentists still use mercury amalgams? In short, because it's profitable! Amalgams are quick and easy. Dentists make more money per chair per day implanting mercury. For factory-style dentistry, where the teeth represent dollar signs instead of part of a human being, dentists drill, fill, and bill. The term "drill, fill, and bill" is a joke aspiring dentists learn in dental school. Only the joke is on us and our children: they count their money, and we have a vaporous neurotoxin implanted an inch from our brains or our children's brains.
And of course, since amalgam damages tooth structure and cracks teeth, pro-mercury dentists will continue to profit from amalgam long after its initial placement. Teeth with amalgam require more dental work in the long term. To learn more, please listen to the short interview above that I previously gave with Dr. Mercola.
The Dental Mercury Crisis – A New Approach to an Old Problem
Dental mercury amalgam (which is fraudulently referred to as "silver" fillings, as it actually contains twice as much mercury as silver) currently accounts for between 313-411 tons of mercury entering the market every year. The demand for dental mercury is higher than the demand for almost all other mercury products – more than lighting (only 120-150 tons), measuring devices (only 300-350 tons), and electrical devices (only 170-210 tons). As other mercury products are being phased out, amalgam is fast becoming the largest source of mercury pollution from products. For example, in the United States, dental offices are the second largest user of mercury.
This dental mercury eventually ends up in our environment, via one pathway or another. For example, dental mercury from amalgam pollutes:
- Water via dental clinic releases and human waste (amalgam is by far the largest source of mercury in our wastewater). Bear in mind, just one drop of mercury in a lake would poison the lake to the extent that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would ban it from fishing.
- Air via cremation, dental clinic emissions, sludge incineration, and respiration
- Land via landfills, burials, and fertilizer.
Once in the environment, dental mercury converts to its even more toxic form, methylmercury, and becomes a major source of mercury in the fish you eat. The cost of cleaning up this environmental hazard is high – so high, in fact, that studies have concluded amalgam is "more expensive than most, possibly all, other fillings when including environmental costs."
But the cost of not cleaning up dental mercury from our environment is even higher. The environmental health effects of amalgam are well known, and have recently been reiterated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, stating that mercury causes brain damage and neurological problems, especially for children and the unborn babies of pregnant women.
With dental mercury entering the environment from multiple unsound pathways, phasing out amalgam and transitioning to non-mercury alternatives is the only way to reduce, and eventually eliminate, this significant source of mercury that threatens our environment and ultimately your, and your children's health.
Fighting Dental Mercury in Developing Nations
But mercury fillings are not just a problem in the United States. Dental mercury is being dumped in developing countries worldwide; and many in developing nations are starting to object as well.
One of the leading advocates for mercury-free dentistry in developing nations is Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement; a non-governmental organization with a strong base in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Recognizing the serious environmental impact of dental mercury – and the resulting environmental health problems felt by entire communities – Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement partnered with Consumers for Dental Choice to launch the Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign.
Founding the Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign were leaders:
Dominique Bally, a chemical engineer
Born in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominique Bally KPOKRO is a chemical engineer and specialist in food chemistry. He obtained his engineering degree of the Professional University Center of the National University of Abidjan Cocody.
Dominique Bally is a world leader in the battle against mercury, participating in every negotiation session for the mercury treaty. In 2010 Charlie Brown named him Vice president for Africa, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. In 2011 he became, too, Co-Director of Africa Campaign against dental mercury in 2011.
Dominique Bally has extensive experience and particular expertise in food technologies. Having worked in a palm oil refinery, a sugar factory, and a soap factory. Until a civil war in early 2011 shut down the nation's economy, Dominique was a process engineer in a cocoa factory in San Pédro.
An Eagle Scout, he is now an active adult Scout leader. Since 2009 he has been a member of the National Team which leads Ivorian Scout Association; before then, he was responsible for training and youth programs at district and regional level.
As a chemist, Dominique provides needed expertise to Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement as a volunteer. He is Chief of the Department of Chemistry and Biodiversity. After losing his job due to war, he dedicated himself to the environmental question. He is the representative of Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement and Ivorian civil society at international meetings dealing with chemicals. In 2012 he completed a study related to air monitoring to detect the presence of mercury in dental clinics, public hospitals and artisanal small scale gold mining sites in Côte d'Ivoire, using a spectrometer known as the Lumex device.
Ange Baimey, the leader of Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement
Ange David BAIMEY has worked for the past six years on causes for the environment and for lasting change in the civil society of his West African nation of Côte d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast).
Ange Baimey is the founder, and executive director, of Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement (French for Young Volunteers for the Environment), an Ivory Coast nonprofit group. Il is co-Director the Campaign for a Mercury-Free Africa .
Ange has a master's degree in socio-ethnology along with several certificates in sustainable development. He was inspired to focus on the environment after the notorious dumping of toxins in Abidjan by a Dutch ship, Probo Koala.** After this scandal made several members of his own family sick, he decided to commit his time and energy to defending children and youth against environmental dangers from pollution and pesticides.
An Eagle Scout, Ange is a member of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, a member of the Committee of Young Reporters of Mediaterre (www .mediaterre.org), and the representative of civil society of Cote d'Ivoire at international climate change conferences. Since 2010 is he has been in charge of coordinating the research on climate change and development for Africa's 20 francophone nations, which brings together 65 organizations from civil society in Africa and Europe.
** (Note by Charlie Brown: Carrying a shipload of toxins, this ship's owners or captain decided, rather than dispose of them legally, which would have cost money, they chose to enter the harbor of Abidjan in the stealth of night and take barrels of toxins to low-income neighborhoods. This horrid misdeed was not discovered immediately, until massive damage was done to human life and health. This reckless and abhorrent disregard for human life by a criminal group of Europeans against innocent Africans energized the citizenry of Cote d'Ivoire.)
Charles Baimey, a media specialist
Born in Daloa, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in 1985, Aubin Charles BAÏMEY holds a degree in social anthropology, and is certified in the field of Sustainable Development. He is director of communications, Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement, and – along with Ange Baimey and Dominique Bally – is co-director, Campaign for a Mercury-Free Africa. Like them, too, he is an Eagle Scout.
For more than six years, Charles Baimey has been engaged in environmental causes. In 2010, he helped host a meeting in Abidjan concerning the treaty on POPS (persistent organic pollutants), and there began the work in his nation to address heavy metals, notably mercury. In September 2011, he participated in the African regional meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, that was the prelude to the amalgam treaty. The next month, he conducted a workshop on mercury-free dentistry in Bamako, Mali, an event focused on ending amalgam use for children and young women.
His work as communications chief has resulted in coverage of the mercury treaty in general, and the amalgam issue specifically, in several West African nations.
After substantial research, Charles produced a documentary on mercury-free dentistry, which includes interviews with government officials, a mercury-free dentist, and an environmentalist. The film, in French, includes English subtitles.
Kouadio Florent Kouakou, a dentist and a dental instructor
Born in Abidjan (Côte D'Ivoire) in 1972, Dr. KOUAKOU Kouadio Florent is a dentist – a mercury-free dentist — and, since 2007, a faculty member at the school of dentistry, National University of Abidjan- Cocody.
Dr. Florent obtained his doctorate in dentistry at Abidjan in 2003. He then obtained an advanced degree in anatomy and physiology at the Claude Bernard University in Lyon, France in 2004, and a degree in endodontics at the same university in 2006.
Since 2009 Kouadio has been technical and scientific advisor to Jeunes Volontaires pour l'Environnement (French for Young Volounteers for the Environment).
He is an active participant in the mercury treaty – participating in INC3 at Nairobi in 2011, then the African regional meeting in Pretoria in May 2012, and will attend INC4 in Montevideo in June-July 2012. Charlie Brown notes that Dr. Florent is our French-speaking mercury-free dentist at the treaty talks – and that more nations use French as their national language than any other language.
Together with a team of volunteers, the Amalgam-Free Africa team leaders have:
- Organized workshops on mercury-free dentistry in several West Africa nations
- Recruited more leaders from other African nations
- Produced a documentary featuring environmentalists, a dentist, and government officials from Africa – all calling for an end to dental mercury
- Urged that dental mercury be addressed in the global mercury treaty currently being negotiated by the United Nations; and
- Gained support from government officials in the region
A Worldwide Effort to Eliminate Mercury Filling
In February 2009, Obama endorsed negotiations for a new global treaty on mercury pollution. The most important issue today in the amalgam battle centers on this world mercury treaty. The United Nations has convened a series of five conferences to put together the environmental treaty on mercury, a treaty that represents a chance for the world to rid itself of amalgam, and rid dentistry of mercury. The treaty's central question: What are we going to do about the ever-growing problem of worldwide mercury contamination?
The first session was in June 2010, the second in Japan in January 2011, the third coming up in Africa and two more conferences will be held over the next three years. (View the first session report here.) The end-goal is the signing of a legally binding mercury treaty in 2013.
The new U.S. position calls for a "phase down" of mercury fillings, followed by an "eventual" phase out. The State Department's submission to the Mercury International Negotiation Committee also called for:
- Educating patients and parents (about amalgam) in order to protect children and fetuses
- Training of dental professionals on the environmental impacts of mercury in dental amalgams
This is an incredible turn of events that brings us one step closer to mercury-free dentistry for all, but the fight is far from over. The American Dental Association (ADA) still continues to give amalgam (mercury) fillings their seal of approval , and is among those pro-mercury forces who are asking for an exemption to the worldwide environmental treaty on mercury so they may keep selling amalgam indefinitely. The ADA web site still states:
"Used by dentists for more than a century, dental amalgam is the most thoroughly researched and tested restorative material among all those in use. It is durable, easy to use, highly resistant to wear and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other materials. For those reasons, it remains a valued treatment option for dentists and their patients."
Health Liberty is for Everybody!
In the United States, we face multiple challenges in the battle against mercury fillings, from government inertia, to industry's monopoly on the press, and the American Dental Association's (ADA) refusal to abandon this primitive nineteenth century mercury product. The Amalgam-Free Africa team faces all of this too, and more, as the Côte d'Ivoire has been ravaged by civil war, high unemployment, and civil unrest over the past several years. Still, they press on, because they firmly believe that everyone – including the people of developing nations – has a right to mercury-free dentistry.
Their work goes to show that health liberty is for everybody, not just the elite few. Every person has a right to know the risks a product poses to their own health, and the risk it poses to the health of their community and environment. And every person has the right to choose to avoid these risks.