Child Patient at the Dentist – Image from Shutterstock

A new “Earth Day” report shows that the real cost of dental mercury fillings may be poisoning the food supply and fish in particular. According to this report, prepared by Brussels-based Concorde East/West Sprl, an international consulting firm that provides research to the UN and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among others, dental mercury used widely in society results in additional pollution control costs, deterioration of public resources and negative health effects associated with mercury contamination. Currently, “Amalgam (mercury dental filling material) has been nearly phased out in many countries, including the Nordic countries, Germany, Italy, Japan and even Mongolia and Vietnam” according to Dr. Nestor Shapka of the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology. Yet, here in the USA, mercury fillings are still used (not to mention mercury is found in countless products), but as this report shows, maybe they shouldn’t be. The EPA reported on this issue way back in 2010, stating, “50% of mercury entering local waste treatment plants comes from dental amalgam waste. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish” – of course people eat the fish too.

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Flickr Image by LouisvilleUSACE

The report points out that when the real cost to taxpayers and the environment is considered, amalgam (mercury fillings) are significantly more costly than composite as a filling material, by at least $41 more per filling. Cyndi Luppi, New England Director for Clean Water Action, notes, “The best way to keep mercury out of our water and out of the fish we eat is to stop it from getting there in the first place. That’s just common sense. This study shows the economics are on our side, too.” Charlie Brown, National Counsel, Consumers for Dental Choice says, “It is taxpayers who foot the bill for dental mercury in the environment, which goes uncontrolled into our water, air and land. Dental mercury contaminates fish, which in turn presents a neurological exposure risk to pregnant women and children, in particular.” Costs are a concern, but negative health aspects of mercury are extremely important to consider. Mercury poisoning can result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, brain and memory problems, depression and numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth, kidney damage and much more. You can help keep mercury out of the environment, plus keep fishing a fun pastime for kids, by asking your dentist about mercury-free fillings.

+ Real Cost of Dental Mercury

+ CDC Report on Phasing out Dental Mercury