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Editor's Note: For the
last 10 years there has been a controversy about the safety of
mercury-sliver dental fillings also known as amalgam. So
what do we really know about this in the year 2006? Here
are some things to think about:
- Mercury is a deadly poison
if ingested in sufficient but relatively small quantities. Lower quantities
simply work to reduce if not damage the function of our immune system and key
organs like the kidneys, stomach.
Mercury is a poison! This is accepted as a simple fact
- The US EPA and Department
of Health have established 0.1 micrograms per 1 kg. of body
weight as the maximum daily intake of the type of mercury
found in many fish.
- The US FDA does not seem
to have established a maximum daily permissible intake as of
this writing, (April 7, 2006) but on their website they say
that they are leaning toward the EPA number of 0.1
microgram which is literally millions of mercury atoms.
- Canada, many countries in
Europe and Japan are about 1/2 of the US amount.
- The American Dental
Association states on their website that:
"A minute amount of mercury vapor may be released by
amalgam fillings due to vigorous chewing and grinding .
. ." American Dental Association website
They don't say anything about
the total amount of mercury vapor will be released from 20 or
30 years of chewing and grinding. We do know that
mercury fillings after they have been removed from your mouth
are considered toxic waste by the EPA and have to be safely
disposed of in accordance with EPA regulations. Strange
that things are different while the amalgam is in your mouth.
Today the argument is simply over the
dosage of this deadly material. Not if it can do damage or
not. Everybody agrees that even a low intake of mercury
in any of its various forms will do some damage to the human body.
So now we have a question of what is the acceptable level of
damage? I guess this is question you need to answer for
So I ask you, "What is the
diminished output of
your kidneys, stomach or immune system that you would consider
"acceptable" because of mercury poisoning when you know you
have the option to avoid or eliminate this risk? I know what my answer is,
especially because I now have the options that the knowledge about
this brings to me. Whether Sweden and Germany have banned or
are going to ban the use of amalgam for dental fillings is of
no consequence to me. I have a zero tolerance for
any avoidable substances that might, just might damage me even
so slightly. I claim the right to know about these
substances and their possible side-effects for myself. I
reject the thesis that a certain level of damage may be acceptable.
Acceptable to whom? Not to me!Whether the
amalgam fillings in your teeth or my teeth contributed
directly or indirectly to our arthritis is not the point here.
We see testimonials from people all over the world who have
had their amalgam fillings replaced and then have noticed a
meaningful improvement in their feeling of well being.
Was this because they eliminated from their body the source of
year's of accumulated mercury that had built up or was it just
a placebo effect? Do placebo effects last for months and
years? Were they able to remain arthritis free because
of no further ongoing mercury seeping into their body with
each meal or cup of tea? Or did they just get a good looking,
better smelling mouth and nothing more?
The FDA information
about mercury in fish is especially interesting.
The amount of mercury in fish that the
FDA considers safe is controversial. Canada set its safe
level at half the FDA level. The EPA and Japan set
levels even lower. The FDA level is used by the European
Commission and for international trade in predatory
species such as shark and swordfish. For all other fish,
however, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations set a level of half that of the FDA.
Clearly, there is no agreement about safe mercury
Mercury sources and toxicity
Mercury is a highly toxic metal associated with damage to the
kidneys and central nervous system. Mercury vapour is emitted
from volcanoes, coal-burning power stations, and municipal
incinerators and returns to the earth through rain
contaminated with metallic mercury. Metallic mercury is
methylated to methyl mercury in oceans and lakes and enters
the food chain via fish and other seafood. Long-lived predator
fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and
pike and bass in fresh water are the main sources of methyl
mercury. Dental amalgams are an important source of mercury
vapour and the vaccine preservative thimerosal is a
significant source of ethyl mercury.
Researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine
recently published a review of what is currently known about
mercury toxicity. Among the highlights:
Mercury vapour, methyl mercury and ethyl mercury
all target the central nervous system and mercury vapour and
ethyl mercury also target the kidneys. Inorganic (metallic)
mercury primarily targets the kidneys and stomach.
Chelators such as DMSA are effective in removing
all forms of mercury from the body, but cannot reverse
central nervous system damage.
The allowable or safe intake of mercury has
recently been reduced to 0.1 microgram/day per kilogram of
The concentration of mercury in the brain, blood
and urine correlates with the number of amalgam fillings in
one's mouth. The concentration increases markedly with
increased chewing. Long-term use of nicotine gum by people
with amalgam (silver) fillings may increase levels by a
factor of 10, thus approaching occupational safety limits.
There is concern, but no clear evidence, that
mercury emitted from amalgam fillings may cause or worsen
degenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's disease,
multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
Ethyl mercury (thimerosal) is used as a
preservative in vaccines. Recent concerns about its toxicity
have caused US authorities to take steps to remove it by
switching from multi-dose vials to single-dose vials that do
not require a preservative.
A recent move by power companies to replace
mercury containing pressure-control devices for domestic gas
supplies has led to numerous spills of mercury in homes.
Some 200,000 homes were affected in one recent incident. The
liquid mercury is difficult to remove and gives off highly
toxic vapours, which are particularly harmful to infants and
Several studies have found an association
between mercury exposure and cardiovascular disease, but
other studies have failed to confirm the connection.
Clarkson, Thomas W., et al. The toxicology of mercury – current
exposures and clinical manifestations.
New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 349, October 30, 2003,
Guidelines on Exposure to Organomercurials
Mercury is an element that is dispersed widely around the
earth. Most of the mercury in the water, soil, plants and
animals is found as inorganic mercury salts. Mercury
accumulates in the aquatic food chain, primarily in the form
of the methylmercury, an organomercurial. Organic forms of
mercury are more easily absorbed when ingested and are less
readily eliminated from the body than are inorganic forms of
mercury. Humans are exposed to methylmercury primarily from
the consumption of seafood (Mahaffey et al. 1997).
Methylmercury is a neurotoxin. The toxicity of
methylmercury was first recognized during the late 1950s and
early 1960s when industrial discharge of mercury into Minimata
Bay, Japan led to the widespread consumption of
mercury-contaminated fish (Harada 1995). Epidemics of
methylmercury poisoning also occurred in Iraq during the 1970s
when seed grain treated with a methylmercury fungicide was
accidentally used to make bread (Bakir et al. 1973). During
these epidemics, fetuses were found to be more sensitive to
the effects of methylmercury than adults. Maternal exposure to
high levels of methylmercury resulted in infants exhibiting
severe neurologic injury including a condition resembling
cerebral palsy, while their mothers showed little or no
symptoms. Sensory and motor neurologic dysfunction and
developmental delays were observed among some children who
were exposed in utero to lower levels of
More recently, several epidemiological studies have
examined the effect of low dose dietary exposure to
methylmercury, with inconsistent results. Studies from the
Faroe Islands reported that subtle cognitive deficits (e.g.,
performance on attention, language, and memory tests),
detectable by sophisticated neuropsychometric testing, were
associated with methylmercury levels previously thought to be
safe (Grandjean et al 1997). Studies in the Seychelles,
evaluating more global developmental outcomes, did not reveal
any correlation between abnormalities and methylmercury levels
(Davidson et al. 1998).
Various agencies have developed guidelines for safe
exposure to methylmercury, including the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (Mahaffey et al. 1997), U.S. Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR 1999), the FDA
(Federal Register 1979)1,
and the World Health Organization (WHO 1996). These exposure
levels range from 0.1 µg/kg body weight/day (EPA) to 0.47
µg/kg body weight/day (WHO)2.
The range of recommendations is due to varying safety margins,
differing emphasis placed on various sources of data, the
different missions of the agencies and the population that the
guideline is intended to protect. All guidelines, however,
fall within the same order of magnitude. While these
guidelines may be used as screening tools in risk assessment
to evaluate the "safety" of mercury exposures, they are not
meant to be bright lines above which toxicity will occur.
However, as exposure levels increase in multiples of these
guidelines, there is increasing concern on the part of the
public health community that adverse health consequences may
occur (Mahaffey 1999).
To address the issue of conflicting methylmercury exposure
guidelines, Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to
study the toxicological effects of methylmercury and provide
recommendations on the establishment of a scientifically
appropriate methylmercury reference dose (RfD).
Research Council 2000).
concluded that the EPA's current reference dose, the RfD, for
methylmercury, 0.1 µg/kg/day is a scientifically justifiable
level for the protection of human health. The FDA is
considering this and other data relevant to its exposure
guideline for methylmercury.
Mercury linked to heart disease
FINLAND. Researchers at the University of Kuopio in Finland
have just completed a major study which clearly implicates
mercury as a major cause of heart attacks and other coronary
and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers set out to
discover why men in
Eastern Finland who eat lots of locally caught fish have
an exceptionally high mortality from cardiovascular disease.
Their conclusion was that the non-fatty freshwater fish eaten
Eastern Finland contains large amounts of mercury. The
researchers discovered that men who had a high fish
consumption not only had a high mercury content in their hair
and urine, but also had a two-fold higher risk of having a
heart attack and a three-fold higher risk of dying from heart
disease than did men with a lower content of mercury in their
hair. Men who ate fatty, ocean-caught fish such as salmon,
herring, and tuna did not have an increased level of mercury
in their hair. The researchers believe that mercury promotes
heart disease in several ways: mercury promotes free radical
generation; it inactivates the body's natural antioxidant
glutathione; and it binds with selenium thus making it
unavailable as an antioxidant and component of glutathione
peroxidase. All these mechanisms would lead to an increased
level of lipid peroxidation and subsequent heart disease. The
researchers also point out that earlier studies have
discovered a clear correlation between the number of amalgam
tooth fillings and the risk of heart attack. Selenium and
vitamin E have both been found to have a protective effect
against mercury toxicity.
Salonen, Jukka T. et al. Intake of mercury from fish, lipid
peroxidation, and the risk of myocardial infarction and
coronary, cardiovascular, and any death in Eastern Finnish
men. Circulation, Vol. 91, No. 3,
February 1, 1995,
Amalgam fillings and hearing loss
COLORADO. The leaching of toxic mercury from amalgam fillings
has been implicated in hearing loss. Mercury toxicity has also
been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS). It is believed that
the toxic effects of mercury cause damage to the blood brain
barrier, demyelination (damage to the nerves' myelin sheaths)
and slowing of the nerve conduction velocity. Now researchers
at the Rocky Mountain Research Institute provide convincing
proof that dental amalgam fillings may be responsible for the
hearing loss often experienced by multiple sclerosis patients.
Their experiment involved seven women aged 32-46 years who had
been diagnosed with MS. The women underwent a standard hearing
test in a sound booth and then had all their amalgam fillings
replaced with composites. Six to eight months later they were
again given the hearing test. Six of the seven patients had
significantly improved hearing in the right ear and five of
the seven showed improvement in the left ear. Overall, hearing
improved an average of eight decibels. The researchers
conclude that amalgam fillings may be a significant factor in
hearing loss experienced by MS patients and could be a factor
in hearing loss in other people as well.
Siblerud, Robert L. and Kienholz, Eldon. Evidence that
mercury from dental amalgam may cause hearing loss in multiple
sclerosis patients. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vol.
12, No. 4, Fourth Quarter, 1997, pp. 240-44
Dental amalgams come under fire - again!
NEW ZEALAND. The New Zealand Ministry of Health is reviewing
its policy on the use of mercury-containing amalgams for tooth
fillings. This review comes hard on the heels of a
precautionary advice from the UK Department of Health which
warns pregnant women not to have amalgam fillings installed.
Dr. Mike Godfrey, a leading environmental physician, points
out that several major amalgam manufacturers have issued
Material Safety Data Sheets and Directions for Use which
clearly warns of the many dangers of amalgam fillings. Among
the restrictions - amalgam fillings should not be used next to
fillings or crowns containing other metals, they should not be
used under crowns, they should not be used in patients with
kidney disease, in pregnant women or in children aged six
years or younger. The manufacturers also warn that mercury
vapours from amalgam fillings can induce psychiatric symptoms
in extremely low concentrations. Depression, mental
deterioration, and irritability are among the symptoms listed.
Amalagam fillings are banned in Sweden and Health Canada has
proposed a limit of one (two surfaces) amalgam fillings in a
child and four (eight surfaces) in an adult. Dr. Godfrey
points out that his chronic fatigue syndrome patients have an
average of 15 amalgam fillings each and exhibit many of the
symptoms that the amalgam manufacturers are warning against.
M.E. and Feek, Colin. Dental amalgam. New Zealand Medical
Journal, Vol. 111, August 28, 1998, p. 326 (letters to the
Dental alloys affect cellular energy production
NOTE: We usually do not report test tube or animal
experiments, but thought we would make an exception in this
case. The findings that commonly used dental alloys may
interrupt the normal function of human cells is a first and
could have wide-ranging effects.
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA. Although nickel is known to be
carcinogenic in humans it is still widely used in certain
dental alloys. Researchers at the University of Alabama now
report that other components of dental alloys (beryllium,
chromium, and molybdenum) as well as nickel affect the very
basic function of human cells - the production of energy
(ATP). ATP is produced in the mitochondria of cells and
involves highly oxidative processes. It is becoming
increasingly clear that abnormalities in the mitochondrial
processes are important causes of human disease. Some
researchers believe that a slowing down of these processes
actually heralds the very first stage in the proliferation of
abnormal cells and cancer.
researchers exposed cultures of human gingival (gum) cells to
solutions of nickel, beryllium, chromium (tri- and hexavalent)
and molybdenum (hexavalent) for periods of 24 and 72 hours.
They then measured the energy production and oxygen
consumption of the cells' mitochondria in the various
solutions. Cells in contact with nickel or hexavalent chromium
were most affected and showed decreased ATP (energy)
production as well as a decrease in oxygen consumption. The
effects of beryllium, molybdenum, and trivalent chromium were
similar, but less pronounced. The researchers conclude that
their findings may be the first indication that some
components of common dental alloys may be detrimental to human
health. They urge further research to establish possible
synergisms between mixtures of these different metals on
mitochondrial energy production. [54 references]
Messer, R.L.W., et al. An investigation of fibroblast
mitochondria enzyme activity and respiration in response to
metallic ions released from dental alloys. J Biomed Mater Res,
Vol. 50, 2000, pp. 598- 604
Trigeminal neuralgia linked to amalgam fillings
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA. Dr. William Cheshire, a physician at
the Mayo Clinic, reports on a case where a woman's trigeminal
neuralgia (tic douloureux) was traced to a galvanic reaction
between an amalgam filling and an adjacent gold-alloy crown.
Consumption of tomatoes and other acidic foods produced
intense jolts described as being like those of an "electrical
battery". The jolts in turn resulted in excruciating pain in
the trigeminal nerve. Replacing the amalgam filling with a
composite resolved the problem. Dr. Cheshire points out that
dissimilar metals in contact with saliva can form a galvanic
cell which can generate electrical currents with several
hundred millivolts of potential. He points out that many
patients with trigeminal neuralgia describe their pain in
terms of "electrical" jolts and concludes that his patient's
neuralgia may well have been triggered by the galvanic
reaction between the amalgam filling and the gold crown.
Cheshire, William P., Jr. The shocking tooth about trigeminal
neuralgia. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 342, June 29,
2000, p. 2003 (correspondence
FDA, EPA Revise Guidelines on Mercury in Fish
By Carol Rados
One minute you hear that
eating fish is good for your heart. The next, you find out
that eating certain types of fish can be harmful.
Actually, there are
benefits and risks to eating fish. Fish and shellfish are an
important part of a healthy diet. They contain high-quality
protein, other essential nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids,
and fish are low in saturated fat. A well-balanced diet that
includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to a
healthy heart and to healthy, well-developed children.
However, nearly all fish
and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury, a type of
mercury found in water that can be harmful, especially to
unborn babies and young children whose nervous systems are
still developing. Some types of fish and shellfish contain
higher levels of mercury. The risks depend on the amount of
fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the
The Food and Drug
Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
through a joint consumer advisory, warn that women who may
become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young
children should avoid the types of fish and shellfish with
higher levels of mercury and eat only those that have lower
Here's more information
about the mercury in fish and shellfish, and what you should
Q. What is mercury
A. Mercury occurs naturally
in the environment and also can be released into the air
through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and
can accumulate in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water
cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into
methylmercury. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful
to unborn babies and young children. Fish absorb the
methylmercury as they feed in these waters. Methylmercury
builds up in the tissue of some types of fish and shellfish
more than others depending on what the fish eat. That's why
levels vary among species and locations.
Q. Should a woman
who is not pregnant, but could become pregnant, be concerned
A. Yes. If you regularly
eat types of fish high in methylmercury, the substance can
accumulate in your blood over time. Methylmercury is removed
from the body naturally, but it may take more than a year for
the levels to drop significantly. Therefore, it may be present
in a woman even before she becomes pregnant. That is why women
who are trying to become pregnant also should avoid eating
certain types of fish.
Q. Do all fish and
shellfish contain methylmercury?
A. Nearly all fish and
shellfish contain traces of methylmercury. However, larger
fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of
methylmercury because it has accumulated over time. Large fish
such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish pose the
greatest risk. Other types of fish and shellfish may be eaten
in the amounts recommended by the FDA and EPA.
Q. Where can I get
information about the types of fish I eat?
A. Information about the
levels of methylmercury in the various types of fish you eat
can be found at the FDA food safety Web site:
www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-mehg.html or the EPA Web site
Q. Should I be
concerned about fish sticks and fast food sandwiches that are
made with fish?
A. Fish sticks and fast
food sandwiches are commonly made from fish low in mercury.
Q. Although advice
is provided about canned tuna, what is the advice about tuna
A. Because tuna steak
generally contains higher levels of mercury than canned light
tuna, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you
may eat up to 6 ounces of tuna steak per week.
Q. What will happen
if I eat more than the recommended amount of fish and
shellfish in a week?
A. One week's consumption
of fish does not change the level of mercury in the body much.
If you eat a lot of fish one week, you can cut back for the
next week or two. Just make sure to average the recommended
amount per week.
Q. Where can I get
information about the safety of fish caught recreationally in
lakes, streams, and rivers?
A. Before you go fishing,
check the appropriate fishing regulations booklet for
information about recreationally caught fish. You can also
contact your local health department for information about
advisories in your area. Check local advisories because some
kinds of fish and shellfish caught in local waters may have
widely varying levels of mercury, depending on the levels of
mercury in the water. Fish with much lower levels may be eaten
more frequently and in larger amounts.
Editor's Note: We
are lucky that the mercury vapor that is emitted from our
amalgam fillings is a small quantity. But when this small quantity repeats daily, then what? Nobody knows what is our actual tolerance for this
deadly poison when ingested over time. Did years of
having amalgam filings in your mouth weaken your immune system
to the point where it was unable to fight off the free living amoebas that years of clinical trials show to be the most
likely cause of arthritis? This is a question only you can answer
for yourself. I know what my answer was and I no longer
This page was up-dated April 7,
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