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Congress Called on to Hold Dental Mercury Polluters Accountable at U.S. House Oversight Hearing
Date:7/8/2008

WASHINGTON, July 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At a U.S. House Government Oversight Subcommittee Hearing today, a mercury watchdog group called on Congress to stop dental mercury pollution by phasing out amalgam, requiring dentists to install amalgam separators, and holding manufacturers of amalgam accountable for paying for the clean up technology necessary to prevent dental mercury pollution.

"Practically speaking, the age of amalgam is over," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "Recent improvements in technology for the non-mercury filling -- most commonly the 'composite' -- have rendered the mercury tooth filling obsolete. One only has to look at the recent bans on new amalgam placement in Norwegian or Swedish dental patients to document mercury-free tooth restoratives as a viable substitute."

So why do over 60 million mercury tooth fillings still get placed into Americans' mouths every year, asked Bender, along with the following additional questions.

-- Is it because it is simply cheaper and quicker for your dentists to place an amalgam and they make more money doing so?

-- Or is it because the US dental sector, led by the American Dental Association and its state associations, remains in denial that mercury is a neurotoxin -- a hazardous material before it is placed in the mouth, and a hazard that releases toxic vapors after it is in the mouth? And could concerns about potential legal liability reinforce this denial?

-- Or is it because dentists are not aware or held accountable to the fact -- undisputed by the U.S. EPA since it was presented to the US House subcommittee last fall -- that the continued use of amalgam is resulting in the release of upwards of 10 tons -- and growing -- of mercury into the air and water each year in the U.S.?

According to Bender, up until now significant hidden environmental health costs of using amalgam -- the so-called "externalities" -- have not been factored into the fee charged by dentists. In his testimony and report submitted to Congress today, Bender demonstrates that when factoring in these external costs, even under multiple scenarios, the cost of placing an amalgam filling virtually meets or surpasses the cost of placing a non-mercury composite filling.

To address the hidden costs of dental mercury pollution, the report recommends that Congress should:

-- Require dental clinics that replace amalgam to install and properly operate amalgam separators, and to report annually on quantities of mercury collected.

-- Assess a modest user fee of $30.00 for the production of each additional mercury tooth filling, payable by the manufacturer at time of sale. Funds collected should be placed into a designated account to cover the costs of controlling mercury pollution.

-- Phase-out the use of mercury tooth fillings as soon as practicable.

This report also clearly shows the cost-effectiveness of amalgam separators at preventing mercury from getting into the environment. It also clearly demonstrates that voluntary programs are not effective in convincing dentists to install and properly maintain separators.

For more information, and to link to MPP report and testimony to Congress, see: http://www.mercurypolicy.org.


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SOURCE Mercury Policy Project
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