Over the past decade, awareness about the risks of mercury in certain fish has increased and pregnant women in particular have been alerted to shop carefully and a recent study indicates that over one-third of American’s mercury exposure is from tuna. But what about the risks from fish children consume at school? In it’s 2011 Annual Report to the Governor, Legislature and Citizens of the State of Vermont, the state mercury advisory committee recommended: “….collaboration between the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Education to communicate with Vermont schools and raise awareness among faculty, staff, and parents about the methyl mercury exposure risk to young children of consuming excessive amounts of tuna fish in school lunch programs,” see: page 2 and 5 of the 2011 report. To further investigate this, MPP announced today in a statement that it is co-releasing with other groups a first ever report on testing for mercury in tuna sold to schools, “Tuna Surprise,” which received extensive media coverage.
The EEB and MPP welcomed a new study for the European Commission, which recommends phasing out dental amalgam use in five years. The BIOS report noted that mercury-free fillings appear more expensive than amalgam because the negative external costs associated with management of amalgam are not factored in. MPP director Bender discussed the EU study in a recent youtube interview, and also said that “When factoring in external costs to society, the average price of an amalgam would be 15% higher than that of a composite,” referencing a recent study on the The Real Cost of Dental Mercury.
Dental mercury fillings pollute the environment, contaminate fish and are far more costly for taxpayers than the alternative tooth-colored material, according to an economics report released by MPP and a broad coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups. The study was prepared by Brussels-based Concorde East/West Sprl and details how society pays for dental mercury through additional pollution control costs, deterioration of public resources, and the health effects associated with mercury contamination. The report shows that when the real cost to taxpayers and the environment is considered, amalgam is significantly more costly than composite as a filling material, by at least $41 more per filling, as reflected in the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology brochure.
Today, ZMWG, EEB, HEAL and HCWHE sent a letter sent to all EU Environment Ministers and Commissioners and Director Generals for Environment and Health, asking for support for phase-outs of mercury use in dentistry in the EU and globally. This was in response to the EU in 2011 conducting a full life-cycle assessment of mercury use in dentistry- mainly looking at the environmental effects caused. The study is expected to be completed by spring 2012. The EEB had sent its initial input on the study in September 2011.
The World Health Organization today released its long-awaited 2009 meeting report on the “Future Use of Materials for Dental Restorations” in preparation for the third of five Intergovernmental Committee deliberations that are expected to lead to the adoption of a legally binding treaty on mercury by 2013. Hailed by consumer groups as a “breakthrough,” the WHO report suggests, over time, the global “phase down” of amalgam. “When an amalgam “phase down” was proposed during the meeting, there was much support,” said MPP director Bender in a statement. “This report reflects this and represents the first step towards phasing out amalgam globally.”
The findings of a new WHO/FAO Report on Benefits and Risks of Seafood Consumption were challenged today by MPP as missing a key opportunity to advise governments about mercury risk from fish consumption. “Surprisingly, this expert group failed to address exposure concerns about fish with higher mercury levels, which have led to consumption advisories in the U.S. and around the world,” said MPP director Bender, in a statement. “The concept of ‘net benefits’ is severely flawed, because benefits accrue to everyone who eats seafood, but risks are concentrated in the small fraction of the population who regularly choose high-mercury fish,” said Dr. Ned Groth, an MPP science consultant. “It is not acceptable to tolerate significant harm to a minority just because the large majority are better off.”
12 scientists recently wrote FDA and the Ag Dept. requesting that misleading or erroneos information on mercury exposure risks from fish be corrected and update in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Unfortunately, the advice in the 2010 Guidelines includes the suggestion (on page 39 ) that pregnant women “can eat all types of tuna,” despite the fact that tuna accounts for the largest share of methylmercury in the American diet, contributing 37 percent of the total. They point out that the Guidelines contain serious scientific deficiencies and that any risk-communication errors could affect consumer perceptions of the risks associated with fish consumption and potentially result in significant harm to public health, particulary in pregnant women.
On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill creating an extended producer responsibility recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbs and setting mercury content standards, modeled after the EU. Pending the Governor’s approval, Vermont will become the third state to establish such a program, following a law first passed in Maine (supported by a report– also see fact sheet) and then a second in Washington, where a weblink explains it. “This law will help continue an important lamp recycling program.” said Senator Virginai Lyons (D-Chittenden), lead sponsor of the legislation. “Protecting our waterways and other natural resources from mercury exposure is vitally important,” said Representative David Deen (D-Windham-5). More information on the retail lamp collection program is available here.
The European Environmental Bureau and MPP recently wrote a letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to correct inaccuracies, misleading and incorrect statements before finalizing its meeting report. Unfortunately, the draft report’s bias is already being diffused on various pro-amalgam websites, including one from Australia and the other from the USA. Among other things, the letter encourages WHO to correct for the record that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss alternatives to amalgam, and not debate or assert the safety of amalgam, — and instead to highlight opportunities for “phasing down” the amalgam use, as WHO discussed in Stockholm in June.