Maine Governor Angus King today signed the most advanced bill in the United States requiring dentists to inform their patients that amalgam dental fillings contain a large percentage of the toxic element mercury, which can be harmful to the wearer’s health.
In his preliminary remarks before signing the bill, Gov. King noted that Maine has probably taken more action to get mercury out of the air and water than any other state in the union. “And yet we all carry it around in our mouths,” he remarked.
Senate President Michael Michaud spearheaded the bill and Representatives Joanne Twoomey and Steven Stanley, all of whom were present, spoke at the signing. Consumer advocates Pam Anderson and Dr. Tom Anderson, a mercury-free dentist from Houlton, ME, who led grassroots support for the bill, participated in the ceremony as well.
Senate President Michaud cited the courage of the many individuals who testified on behalf of the bill, especially the dentists who came forward to endorse it despite the opposition of the American Dental Association. “We hope that the U.S. will take Maine’s lead and move forward with legislation at the national level,” he said.
The bill mandates that every dentist’s office will feature a poster and a brochure informing patients about the presence of mercury in amalgam fillings and about its negative health effects.
Scientific research has shown that dental amalgam is the chief source of mercury in the human body. For that reason Rep. Twoomey described the bill as a major step forward for women of childbearing age and for children, who receive their first exposure to mercury in the womb and from their mother’s breast milk. Mercury has been implicated in neurological disorders of children such as autism and ADD/ADHD, and in fertility problems in women.
“We are delighted that this bill has been signed,” said Rep. Stanley. It is a major step forward to protect the health of Maine citizens.”
Pam Anderson added that the group hopes Maine’s next step would be to ban the use of dental amalgam in all women of childbearing age and in children.
Other participants in the press conference were –
* Kathleen McGee, Director of the Maine Toxic Action Coalition
* Marjorie Monteleone, Maine DAMS (Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome) Coordinator
* Rosie Cronen, New Hampshire DAMS Coordinator
* Representatives from the Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine Citizens for Affordable Health Care, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection
* Dr. Gerald Vermette, mercury-free dentist
* Rosemary Fecteau, Ph.D., whose husband died of mercury toxicity from his dental fillings
* Charles Brown, attorney for the national organization Consumers for Dental Choice
* and New York City DAMS Coordinator Dr. Lydia Bronte, author of a widely respected book, THE MERCURY IN YOUR MOUTH: The Truth About “Silver” Dental Fillings.
“The public is being deceived by the terminology used for these fillings,” said Charles Brown in his remarks. “The ADA calls them “silver” fillings, but they are really MERCURY fillings. If people knew the principal ingredient is mercury they would not want these fillings in their teeth.”
Gov. King compared the current use of mercury in dental fillings with the 1950’s use in shoe stores of powerful x-ray machines called fluoroscopes, which exposed hundreds of thousands of adults and children to high doses of toxic x-rays. “Every child who went into the shoe store to buy new shoes would put his feet into the fluoroscope so the bones could be seen,” King recalled. “People who worked in the store were exposed to the radiation all day; children played games around the machine. Now we realize it was a terrible thing to do, but then it seemed perfectly normal. Some day we will wonder how we could ever have put such a toxic substance into the human mouth.”
Bangor Daily News
August 27, 2001
Crusade against mercury fillings renewed
By Francis X. Quinn
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA — Critics of the use of mercury-containing dental amalgam celebrated Maine’s effort to heighten patient awareness of its potential health effects.
Stepping up a campaign targeting a substance commonly used to fill cavities, anti-mercury activists joined Gov. Angus King and Senate President Michael Michaud on Thursday for a re-enactment of the signing of informed consent legislation passed earlier this year.
Under the new law, dentists will be required to distribute informational brochures to patients requiring fillings. Brochures will be developed by the state Bureau of Health and provided to dentists at cost.
The brochures will describe available alternatives to mercury amalgam and detail potential advantages and disadvantages. Other information will address the durability, cost and aesthetic quality of mercury amalgam and alternative materials.
Mercury is a highly toxic, naturally occurring element. It can be released into the environment from numerous sources, including the burning of fossil fuels.
There is strong evidence linking mercury exposure to neurological problems, as well as immune system and cardiological problems, according to a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington last year.
The average amalgam filling, which is 50 percent mercury, contains more than half a gram of mercury, according to the Maine Toxics Action Coalition.
Amalgam fillings, which also contain silver, copper and tin, can be cheaper than other types, including plastic and porcelain, and can last longer.
King said Thursday that despite “some controversy” over the health effects of amalgam fillings, he considered the new Maine law “national leadership legislation” that could give dental patients “at least the ability to make an intelligent decision.”
Michaud, D-East Millinocket, credited advocates of the legislation for bucking elements of the medical establishment.
The American Dental Association has said there is no sound scientific evidence supporting a link between amalgam fillings and systemic diseases or chronic illness.
Executive Director Frances Miliano of the Maine Dental Association said Thursday the state group believes “all the reliable science does point to the safety of amalgam.”
The bill that finally was passed by the Legislature originally called for a ban on mercury fillings for young children and women of childbearing age.
The informed consent measure that won enactment put Maine with California and Arizona among states requiring some disclosure, according to the Maine Toxics Action Coalition.
Dental fillings constitute the largest source of direct mercury pollution in wastewater, according to a recent report by a coalition of New England environmental groups.