50 U.S. groups issue Chicago Declaration to End Dental Industry Mercury Use

A coalition of 50 environmental, public health, and children’s rights groups called for an end to dental amalgam in American children, and for a two-year general phase-out of its use in the United States.  Supporters include many major national nonprofit groups, including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Clean Water Action, Consumers for Dental Choice, and Learning Disabilities Association of America.

The paper, known as the Chicago Declaration to End Dental Industry Mercury Use, was unveiled at a news conference held at the University of Illinois at Chicago and chaired by Charlie Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry.  Brown noted, “Starting July 1, the European Union bans amalgam for children under 15; the U.S. needs to act too.”

Once the mainstay of dentistry, amalgam is now in sharp decline and is discontinued in several countries.  Despite its deceptive name “silver fillings,” amalgam’s main component is actually mercury, a neurotoxin and a heavy metal.

Jessica Saepoff, DDS, former Commissioner of the Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission, said, “Mercury-free dentistry is practical, it is a superior technology and it is tooth-friendly – minimally invasive –while amalgam is not.”

Other organizations signing onto the Chicago Declaration include Environmental Working Group, Mercury Policy Project, Organic Consumers Association, International Indian Treaty Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Chicago, Organic and Natural Health Association, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance, the Ecology Center, and Alliance for Natural Health-USA.  Key state-based environmental, public health, and children’s groups represent half the states.

Peter Orris, M.D., of Health Care Without Harm and a participant in the news conference, said, “Mercury’s impact on young people’s health through its presence in fish remains an unresolved problem in this country and around the world.  Reducing and eventually virtually eliminating mercury use in ‘silver’ dental fillings by replacement with other effective restorative materials will go a long way in removing this environmental threat to our children in the future.”

As other mercury uses decline, dental amalgam has become the single largest use of mercury in the U.S., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  Once amalgam is released, says U.S. EPA, “Certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish.”

The Chicago Declaration calls for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to act.  “But we don’t need FDA to act,” said Beth McGaw, President, Learning Disabilities Association of America.  “Every parent in America needs to insist their dentists only use mercury-free dental fillings for their child.”

Chicago dentist Dr. Timothy Crowe spoke at the news conference, expressing confidence that the term “Chicago Declaration” is well-earned.  “Chicago dentists increasingly recognize the need to transition to mercury-free dentistry.  In my experience practicing both on the South Side and downtown, the alternatives are affordable, effective, and available,” he said.

Elizabeth Saunders of Clean Water Action said, “Dental amalgam is the major source of mercury in city wastewater, and when it goes down the drain it doesn’t go ‘away,’ it ends up in our environment and the food chain.  Dental amalgam adds to the mercury burden in fish, a major part of the diet for many women and children in the US.  Ending amalgam use represents a significant and much-needed step to protecting children from a damaging toxic exposure.”