Dental amalgam, sometimes referred to as “silver filling,” is a silver-colored material used to fill (restore) teeth that have cavities. Dental amalgam is made of two nearly equal parts: liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, tin, copper, zinc and other metals. Amalgam is one of the most commonly used tooth fillings, and is considered to be a safe, sound, and effective treatment for tooth decay.
By Dr. Mercola
Last year, a legally binding international treaty to control the use of toxic mercury was signed into action. The treaty marked the beginning of the end for dental amalgam around the world, as it mandates that each nation phase down amalgam use.
The Philippines was among those nations that signed the treaty last year, with the country saying they planned to have mercury-free health care facilities by the end of 2016. It's a major victory… but, for those working with this deadly poison on a daily basis, it may not be soon enough.
Environmental activist groups in the Philippines are now calling for an immediate ban on dental mercury, following a new study that has revealed just how high levels of mercury vapor really are in dental institutions.
Mercury Vapors in Some Dental Institutions Are So High They Should Trigger Immediate Evacuations
Anyone who has mercury fillings in their mouth is at risk from the mercury vapors they release. However, dental practitioners – including dentists, dental hygienists, dental students, clinical instructors, and even dental supply traders – are particularly vulnerable to mercury intoxication while working with this toxic substance.
A new study conducted by environmental justice group BAN Toxics (BT) in partnership with the International Association of Oral and Medicine & Toxicology-Philippines, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, and Asian Center for Environmental Health, revealed just how high levels of mercury vapor actually are.
The mercury vapor concentrations in five Philippine dental institutions and three dental stores exceeded the standard reference levels set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As reported by BAN Toxics:
“It was found that mercury concentration values varied from 967ng/m3 to a high of 35,617ng/m3—the majority of which were at levels beyond recommended reference standards such as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) action level of 1,000 ng/m3. Some areas posted a concentration of >10,000 ng/m3, which is considered as the evacuation alert level by the US EPA.”
Rather than waiting until the end of 2016 for the phase-out, exposing dental students and workers to dangerous levels of mercury for essentially three more years, the environmental groups are calling for an immediate ban on dental amalgam in the Philippines, along with a change to the dental curriculum so that the future generation of dentists will know how to use mercury-free alternatives.
Pakistan Hospital Bans Mercury Due to Indoor Air Pollution
Similar to in the Philippines, research conducted in collaboration with the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute found that some dental hospitals in Pakistan had hazardous levels of mercury pollutants in the air.
The study found some dental teaching hospitals with indoor air levels of mercury between eight and 20 times higher than the permissible level for human health, posing risks not only to patients but also to medical staff. In response to the study, Polyclinic Hospital in Pakistan became the country's first to ban mercury fillings, citing hazards to human health.
When amalgam fillings are placed in or removed from teeth, they can release a small amount of mercury vapor. Amalgam can also release small amounts of mercury vapor during chewing, and people can absorb these vapors by inhaling or ingesting them. High levels of mercury vapor exposure are associated with adverse effects in the brain and the kidneys. Since the 1990s, several federal agencies have reviewed the scientific literature looking for links between dental amalgam and health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is little scientific evidence that the health of the vast majority of people with dental amalgam is compromised, nor that removing amalgam fillings has any beneficial effect on health.
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