This Mercury Awareness Week we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Consumers for Dental Choice, the nonprofit advocacy wing of the mercury-free dentistry movement. It is also our 10th Mercury Awareness Week, during which we step forward to educate the public and empower dentists to choose mercury-free dentistry, and when I put my resources to support Charlie Brown and his team by matching every dollar you donate.
Thanks to your donations, Consumers for Dental Choice has gone a long way toward taking mercury-free dentistry from dream to reality. I ask that you continue your support by donating at ToxicTeeth.org, and I will double your gift all of this week, August 23 to 29, 2020 (up to $150,000). So, here’s your chance to double your impact for mercury-free dentistry!
Together, we can finish making the dream of mercury-free dentistry a reality, building on Consumers for Dental Choice’s track record of victories in the states, at the federal level and worldwide.
Supporting Mercury-Free Dentists, Protecting Patients’ Rights
When Consumers for Dental Choice started, mercury-free dentists were under attack by their state dental boards. These boards were stacked with pro-mercury dentists recommended for the appointment by pro-mercury dental associations. And of course, the pro-mercury dentists had a strong interest in stripping their mercury-free dentist competition of their licenses — and that is just what they did.
So, Consumers for Dental Choice challenged those tyrannical dental boards — and won. Charlie Brown, who was twice elected Attorney General of West Virginia, struck down the boards’ gag rule that prevented dentists from advising, advocating and advertising mercury-free dentistry. Not only did he block boards from taking dental licenses, but he even won back dental licenses in California and Iowa.
Then Consumers for Dental Choice went on the offensive. This nonprofit group succeeded in getting mercury-free dentists appointed or reappointed to dental boards in California, Minnesota and Washington state.
And then it got several states — Maine, Connecticut, California and New Hampshire, as well as the city of Philadelphia — to pass laws that require dentists to distribute fact sheets telling patients that amalgam is made of mercury and that non-mercury alternatives are available.
When the California dental board refused to produce a fact sheet as required by the law, Consumers for Dental Choice helped get the board disbanded. A new dental board, one that would follow the law requiring it to develop a fact sheet, was appointed. Now Consumers for Dental Choice has returned to the state with a vengeance — turning the tables on state dental boards:
1. Consumers for Dental Choice Challenged the Maine Dental Board — The Board’s backroom tactics supporting mercury fillings led Charlie to file an antitrust petition with the Federal Trade Commission. The dental board either saw the light or felt the heat — it’s pretty easy to see which — and adopted a new regulation, which took effect during the pandemic:
“Use of mercury or mercury amalgam. A licensee who uses mercury or mercury amalgam in any dental procedure shall obtain written informed consent from the patient (or the patient’s legal guardian).
The informed consent will identify the risks, benefits, contraindicators and alternatives to the use of mercury or mercury amalgam in dental procedures.” ~ Maine Reg. 02-313, Chap. 12 (III) (C)
As you can see, the word “mercury” — the term the ADA tried to hide for a century — is mentioned multiple times in this rule.
2. Petition Filed to the State of Connecticut Dental Board — The state of Connecticut has a fact sheet law but refuses to enforce it. Additionally, its Medicaid program mandates only mercury fillings for adults (limiting consumer choice) and excludes mercury-free dentists from participation (limiting consumer access to dental care).
In July 2020, Consumers for Dental Choice, joined by the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and the Mercury Policy Project, filed both a petition to the dental board and a complaint to the state attorney general.
3. Petition Filed to Ban Sales of Amalgam for Children in Wisconsin — The state of Wisconsin has a rule banning sales of products or other articles aimed at children that contain mercury. Using diligent research to find this little-noticed regulation, Consumers for Dental Choice and its Wisconsin allies filed a petition in August 2020 to ban sales of amalgam for children.
US Regulators Now Engaging Mercury-Free Dentistry Movement
Armed with its victories at the state level, Consumers for Dental Choice took on the federal government. For three decades, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been dodging its duty to classify — that is, issue a rule for — amalgam. Consumers for Dental Choice took action.
After assembling plaintiffs, Consumers for Dental Choice sued the FDA to classify amalgam in 2008. The judge agreed and told the FDA to sit down with Consumers for Dental Choice to determine a deadline.
FDA was compelled to commit to classifying amalgam by July 2009. But when July 2009 came around it was clear the FDA had not considered the science in its abysmal rule. Now Consumers for Dental Choice has convinced FDA to re-open its rule, as I will detail in another article coming on August 27, 2020.
Teaming with other environmental groups, Consumers for Dental Choice challenged the EPA to require pro-mercury dentists to install and maintain amalgam separators, a device that can capture some of amalgam’s mercury before it enters wastewater. After multiple meetings, a congressional hearing and petitions, EPA finally issued a separator rule.
Consumers for Dental Choice didn’t stop with these federal regulators. It went to the State Department, calling for the U.S. government to take a stand for mercury-free dentistry at the negotiations for the mercury treaty that would come to be known as the Minamata Convention on Mercury. In the end, the U.S. government became a party to the Minamata Convention, supporting this treaty’s required reduction of amalgam use.
In these ways, Consumers for Dental Choice took the federal government from doing nothing to having to face the amalgam issue head-on.
Amalgam Bans and Restrictions Now a Worldwide Phenomenon
Consumers for Dental Choice launched its international campaign in 2010 by establishing the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, a coalition of environmental, patient and dental organizations dedicated to phasing out amalgam use. At that time, only two countries had banned amalgam use: Sweden and Norway. And no one thought other countries — especially developing countries — could replicate this success.
But Consumers for Dental Choice dug in, and the coalition it assembled dug in. They ignited campaigns around the world — including workshops, stakeholder meetings, conferences with government officials, written submissions, petitions, grassroots organizing and outreach to dental schools, dental associations and dental professionals.
All of that work paid off, and now amalgam bans and restrictions are more and more common all over the world. Check out the video at the top of the article to learn more about these victories, including these highlights:
European Union — The European Union has banned amalgam use in children under age 15, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers since July 2018. In 2019, Finland, Ireland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all announced plans to phase out amalgam use. Additionally, New Caledonia, a French territory, banned all dental amalgam use in September 2019.
Bangladesh — The Bangladesh Army stopped buying dental amalgam in January 2018, a decision that circulated to all forces including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) — about 1.5 million persons under treatment, including the families of military personnel.
Nigeria — In its Minamata Convention on Mercury Initial Assessment Report, Nigeria ranked phasing down amalgam use as its second priority for action and announced its plan of “amalgam use discontinued for vulnerable populations.” The federal government developed a patient brochure to be made available at dental clinics, dental schools and hospitals.
It advised that amalgam “is not recommended for children and pregnant women” and that it “requires removal of more health tooth structure.” It also urges patients to help reduce amalgam use by “choosing a mercury-free filling like composite resin or glass ionomer.”
Vietnam — In 2019, the Ministry of Health’s Health Service Administration Department advised dental offices to stop using amalgam for children under 15, pregnant women and lactating women by April 1, 2019. It further called for a roadmap to stop using amalgam in dentistry.
Suriname — After determining that “mercury amalgam is practically no longer used in Surinamese dentistry,” the Surinamese government announced its plan to “completely ban” the use of mercury amalgam.
Pakistan — In 2018, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in Pakistan issued an advisory note directing that “all Health workers in the dentistry unit of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (Pakistan) are requested to restrict and do not prefer mercury dental fillings for children below the age of 15 years in KPK to safeguard their health at their very early age.”
Mauritius — A decade ago, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life made the decision to phase out the use of amalgam for pregnant women and children under 10 years old. Since then, there has been a significant reduction in the number of school children receiving amalgam fillings.
Indonesia — By 2014, Indonesia had updated its national health insurance system to include composite and glass ionomer fillings only — and exclude amalgam from its national health insurance program. Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country in population.
Moldova — In 2019, the Moldovan parliament passed a law to prohibit the production, placing on the market and use of mercury and its compounds in dental amalgam. In this European nation, amalgam use has ended entirely.
Nepal — In 2019, Nepal announced that it is phasing out dental amalgam use in two steps. As explained by Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, it has made the decision to implement a “Complete ban [on] the use of mercury dental amalgam in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children below 15 years.” It then phases out amalgam on a five-year timetable.
Tanzania — In 2020, Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children adopted guidelines that will end amalgam use for children and for women of childbearing age:
Philippines — In 2020, the Philippines Department of Health signed an administrative order that phases out dental amalgam in the Philippines in three years. It immediately bans amalgam use in pregnant women, children under the age of 14, breastfeeding mothers and persons with compromised renal and immune systems.
With Consumers for Dental Choice’s help, the number of countries banning and restricting amalgam use has grown exponentially, especially in the past few years as even developing countries are successfully phasing out and restricting amalgam use. Now Consumers for Dental Choice is building on this international momentum to end amalgam use in North America, too.
Taking Mercury-Free Dentistry From Dream to Reality
Consumers for Dental Choice has taken the dream of mercury-free dentistry a long way — and you can help this effective advocacy organization finish making it a reality for all people, everywhere.
Will you consider a donation to this 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry? I will match all donations during Mercury-Free Dentistry Week (August 23 to 29, 2020) up to $150,000. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online at ToxicTeeth.org. Checks can be mailed to:
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210
Washington DC 20002
Thank you for helping make the dream of mercury-free dentistry into reality!
And remember, you don’t need to wait to make mercury-free dentistry a reality for you and your children — you can choose a mercury-free dentist right now. Check out Consumers for Dental Choice’s listing of mercury-free dentists now.