Southborough – The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) today received a 2002 Dirty Dozen Award spotlighting it as one of the twelve top polluters in the Commonwealth for unregulated mercury discharges. In the process of restoring teeth with so-called “silver” fillings – actually 50% mercury – dentists nation wide use approximately 40 metric tons of mercury each year, most of which is eventually released into the environment.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. One in 10 reproductive-age American women carry enough mercury in their blood to pose a threat of neurological damage to the fetus if they got pregnant, according to a 2001 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention study.
“While many other industries, including hospitals, are phasing out the use of mercury products, dentists continue to use large amounts of mercury and dispose of it improperly. We call on the MDS, and on dentists everywhere, to pledge to stop polluting our environment and endangering our health,” said Tiffany Skogstrom of Health Care Without Harm.
In 2001, the MDS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) for the ‘Reduction of the Release of Mercury’. The MOU focused on educational outreach to dentists, developing dental amalgam recovery systems, and creating a program to reduce the release of mercury. Despite this agreement, dentist offices continue to be the single largest source of mercury in Massachusetts, discharging 36 pounds or 13% of mercury that enters Massachusetts Bay each year.
“The MDS should require dentists to capture mercury with a filter before it enters waterways,” said Jay Rasku of the Toxics Action Center. Once in waterways, mercury bioaccumulates in fish, prompting the DPH to advise women of child-bearing age and children under 12 against eating fish caught in the state. “We also call on the EOEA to meet its zero emissions goal by imposing mandatory actions for mercury reduction in dentistry, not voluntary programs.”
“Although there is substantial scientific evidence that mercury is dangerous to the environment and human health, the MDS is not implementing safety measures that would require dentists to trap and recycle this toxic metal,” said Brent Baeslack, a representative from the Merrimack Valley Environmental Coalition.
Fortunately, alternative filling materials are available, and there are cost effective devices to properly manage waste dental mercury. “For about $50 a month, slightly less than the cost of a single filling, dentists could stop mercury from going down the drain,” said Baeslack.
The sixth annual Dirty Dozen Awards spotlight twelve of the Commonwealth’s top polluters. These sites pose a significant threat to public health and the environment and need immediate action by industry and/or government officials. The Dirty Dozen Awards were selected from a set of nominations by a five-member panel of environmental and public health professionals.
For More Information:
Jay Rasku (617) 747-4347
Tiffany Skogstrom (617) 846-0109