Fluoride Action Network

A victory in state for free speech

Source: The Connecticut Post | July 15th, 2005

Mark Breiner, a Trumbull resident who practices dentistry in Orange, has won a significant free speech victory over the state Department of Public Health.

Breiner is an outspoken opponent of amalgam dental fillings that contain the toxic substance mercury.

For years he has locked horns with the state agency and the American Dental Association and Connecticut State Dental Association on the issue, contending that amalgam restorations pose health risks for consumers.

In 2002, he authored an OpEd essay for the Connecticut Post’s Forum section that argued that very point. It was written following a minor uproar that followed the evacuation and closing of Masuk High School in Monroe after a mercury spill in one of the school’s science labs.

However, the DPH swooped down on Breiner, saying his essay violated a consent decree the agency entered into with him in 2001 which, under threat of loss of his license, required the dentist to no longer advise his patients to have amalgam restorations replaced.

With the help of the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, Breiner sued the agency for violating his free speech rights and the DPH has now agreed to amend the decree and permit Breiner to speak publicly and write about the amalgam controversy.

In essence it returns Breiner’s voice to a debate that is key to Connecticut. The Connecticut General Assembly in 2002 approved legislation which, as of a year ago, bans mercury in the state from just about any product where its use includes any risk of entering the environment.

The law currently prohibits sale of any product, with the exception of mercury vapor lighting, that contains 250 parts per million of mercury. The state Department of Environmental Protection is charged with phasing in the law and promulgating regulations to enforce it. However, the department has yet to definitively tackle the thorny and highly contentious dental amalgam issue.

Whether one agrees or not with Breiner’s argument, he must enjoy under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment the right to express his opinions. It’s a victory for open debate on this issue that the Department of Public Health has modified its attempt to gag Breiner.