World governments today completed the first step towards a mercury treaty, issuing a meeting report and providing the basis for developing treaty text for INC2 in Japan in January 2011, according to ZMWG and press reports. NGOs lauded W.H.O. for supporting mercury reductions. “We applaud W.H.O.’s statement to stop production of skin cosmetics containing mercury, as they are an exposure risk worldwide ,” said MPP director Bender. “We welcome W.H.O’s interest in “phasing down” amalgam, which is reflective of the WHO meeting last fall, and consistent with what NGOs wrote to WHO on.” This may be of interest in the US as FDA decided yesterday to review amalgam risks.
The U.S. House Government Oversight Subcommittee on Domestic Policy held a hearing on Wednesday, May 26 on “Assessing EPA’s Efforts To Measure And Reduce Mercury Pollution From Dentist Offices.” At the hearing, MPP presented its testimony and a new report, “Midnight Deal on Dental Mercury.” Several online services reported on the meeting and/or MPP’s report. Testifying at the hearing were EPA, the American Dental Association, an amalgam separator manufacturer, a scientist and MPP’. Earlier, EPA had responded to an letter from Domestic Policy Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Kucinich regarding air releases and the Agency’s MOU with the ADA on dental mercury releases. In response, MPP wrote a letter to Chairman Kucinich, to clarify the record regarding our “stakeholder” role.
The Vermont Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution released a fact sheet today entitled: “Dental Amalgam Fillings: Environmental and Health Facts for Dental Patients.” The fact sheet covers both health and environmental concerns related to amalgam. “Our fact sheet encourages Vermonters to consider alternatives to amalgam that don’t contain mercury, such as composite fillings,” said Michael Bender, former ACMP chair and MMP director in a statement. In its 2010 report, the Advisory Committee recommends that the Legislature consider prohibiting placement of amalgam in pregnant women and children. It also recommends an eventual phase-out of mercury-containing dental amalgam by 2012, due primarily to environmental concerns.
Chairman of the Congressional Domestic Policy Subcommittee, Dennis Kucinich, and Congresswoman Diane Watson sent a written request to EPA to reduce mercury pollution by tightening dental mercury regulations with Best Management Practices and amalgam separators. They point out that dental mercury is a serious source of mercury pollution and comprises over half of all mercury in use today, amounting to over 1000 tons. They call upon the EPA to reevaluate and update its mercury emission factors based upon more complete data and provide a plan to Congress by February 16th.
Global NGO’s ask the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider the health and environmental impact from continued use of dental mercury fillings. Because effective global control of mercury releases from dental mercury would be extraordinarily difficult and inordinately expensive, they urge the WHO to recommend the use of viable mercury-free alternatives to all countries. The letter to the WHO was signed by over 70 non-governmental environmental and health organizations from around the world.
Michael Bender, on behalf of Mercury Policy Project and Zero Mercury Working Group, presented at the World Health Organization’s Dental Restoration Materials Meeting. He discussed the role of UNEP Mercury Storage-Supply Partnership in reducing dental mercury exposure worldwide. Bender pointed out that reducing the supply, demand, and trade of mercury is more effective than trying to control releases.
MPP sent the attached letter from numerous national and state environmental, health and consumer groups to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on the EPA-ADA dental mercury Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). In the letter, groups urge Jackson to consider terminating the MOU–which was adopted during the waning days of the Bush Administration–in favor of national goal-based mercury reduction standards for the U.S. dental industry. The letter notes that EPA has had a history under the previous Administration of ignoring the significant discharge of mercury by the dental community and that Congressional hearings have failed to elicit sufficient recognition of the dental mercury problem or steps necessary to remedy them by the Agency (see government reports from 2008 and 2007.) In fact, information provided by MPP to Congress clearly indicates that dental mercury releases are far greater than previously thought.
While Congress had asked the prior EPA Administrator for a response to the findings of the Congressional hearings, the Agency thus far to our knowledge has not adequately responded or clearly recognized the significance of the Congressional findings.
The Dominican Sisters of Hope, supported by Consumers for Dental Choice and the Mercury Policy Project, presented a resolution calling on the Danaher (DHR: NYSE) corporation to transition out of manufacturing mercury fillings at the company’s annual shareholder meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, May 5 (see press release). Danaher owns Kerr, the largest manufacturer of mercury amalgam. “Mercury is highly toxic, can cause permanent harm to a fetus, to a child’s developing brain or an adult’s kidneys,” said Valerie Heinonen, o.s.u., a consultant in corporate responsibility who will be representing the Dominican Sisters of Hope, which owns a block of Danaher shares. “The underserved are at great risk because of the continued use of mercury amalgam. We think it is wrong to put them at such risk when there are suitable alternatives available.”
After two congressional oversight hearings (at which MPP recently testified, see posts below) concerning the environmental release of dental mercury, a US House Government Oversight subcommittee is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to reform its rulemaking on dental mercury, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. In a July 28, 2008 letter to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, Domestic Policy Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Kucinich reminded FDA of its statutory duty under NEPA to prepare an environmental impact statement or conduct an environmental assessment as part of the rulemaking process in reclassifying dental mercury, classifying encapsulated amalgam alloy and dental mercury or issuing special controls for amalgam alloy.
MPP director Michael Bender testifies today before a US Congressional Government Oversight Subcommittee on Domestic Policy hearing, entitled “Assessing State and Local Regulations to Reduce Mercury Emissions.” During his testimony, Bender presents MPP’s new report, “Facing Up to the Hazards of Mercury Tooth Fillings,” which lays out the rationale for placing a user fee on the continued use of dental mercury as a means to cover the costs of preventing dental mercury pollution from environmental release. Specifically, the report recommends that a user fee of $30.00 be assessed on amalgam manufacturers for the production of each mercury tooth filling, payable at time of sale. Funds collected should be placed into a designated account to cover the costs of controlling mercury pollution. The report also shows the cost-effectiveness of amalgam separators at preventing mercury from getting into the environment and clearly demonstrates that voluntary programs are not effective in convincing dentists to install and properly maintain separators.
After 32 years of delay, the Food and Drug Administration has finally agreed to comply with the law and set a date to classify mercury amalgam as a substance that poses a health risk to pregnant women and unborn babies, and children. This about-face resulted from settling, earlier this week, our lawsuit, Moms Against Mercury et al. v. Von Eschenbach, Commissioner, et al. (see Press Release) Stating it was an “unreasonable delay” and “an reasonable case of failure to act.” As reflected in the May 16, 2008 court transcripts, Judge Ellen Huvelle states that the “probability of harm is enormous,” and asked the FDA: “How could you drag your feet for 32 years? Do what you are supposed to do.” (see full transcript) Judge Huvelle also states that she couldn’t “order a ban, but can compel to act,” observing that this was “government at its worst” and that she wanted this “public safety issue to be resolved.” The FDA must now finish classification within one year of the close of the public comment period on its amalgam policy, that is, by July 28, 2009.
As part of the settlement, the FDA agreed to and, with uncharacteristic speed, has already changed its website— dramatically. The Updated June 3, 2008 FDA website now states, for example:
“Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetus.” “Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner.”
The FDA website also now states that “Some other countries follow a “precautionary principle” and avoid the use of dental amalgam in pregnant women” and provides links to advice about amalgams from regulatory agencies in other countries, including Canada , France and Sweden. These warnings are similar to those sent from the manufacturers. Encapsulated dental amalgam arrives at a dentist’s office with skull and cross bones affixed next to the words “POISON, CONTAINS METALLIC MERCURY.” Amalgam manufacturers – Kerr, Vivadent and Dentsply – advise dentists against placing amalgam in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children under six, and anyone with kidney disease. Dentsply warns: “Contraindication (N.B.: “Contraindication” is a directive to forbid, not just a “warning.”) “In children 6 and under” and “In expectant mothers.” However, these warnings appear not to have been passed to the public, based on the results of a national poll conducted for MPP by Zogby International whereby most Americans (76 percent) don’t know mercury is the primary component of amalgam fillings; 92 percent of Americans overwhelmingly want to be informed of their options with respect to mercury and non-mercury dental filling materials prior to treatment; and 77 percent of Americans would choose higher cost fillings that do not contain mercury if given the choice.