Summary by Richard D. Fischer, DDS
The House Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness Hearing convened Thursday, May 8, 2003, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (IN). Ranking minority leader was Rep. Diane Watson (CA). Chairman Burton opened the hearing with a brilliant statement composed by staffer John Rowe. It was very strong and left no doubt that Burton and Rowe had no illusions regarding the agenda of pro-amalgamists. Rep. Watson also gave an equally fiery opening statement.
The first of two panels consisted of four expert witnesses: Fritz Lorscheider, PhD; Boyd Haley, PhD; Maths Berlin, PhD: and Frederick Eichmiller, DDS. Dr. Lorscheider reviewed his research at the University of Calgary, with focus on the neurotoxicity of mercury, and showed the video of minute concentrations of mercury causing the destruction of tubulin and creation of the neurofibril tangles which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. He pointed out that the amount of mercury used to bring about the observed effects were a million times less than the daily dose received by humans from dental amalgam.
Dr. Haley discussed the synergistic effects caused when small doses of mercury are combined with small doses of other heavy metals, such as lead. Because these heavy metals never occur alone in the tissues of humans, the levels of exposure which some believe to be “safe” for any ONE toxin is actually a significant hazard in the real world of multiple toxic insults.
Dr. Berlin gave an updated risk analysis of dental amalgam in environmental medical terms. Then came a thorough review of the research on the health hazards of dental mercury from the past five years for the Swedish Council for Planning and Coordination of Research. Dr. Berlin had also chaired the WHO Task Group on the Environmental Health Criteria for Inorganic Mercury in 1991. Among the conclusions of his most recent report were the following: “…the safety margin that was thought to exist with respect to mercury exposure from amalgam has been erased”, and “…with reference to the fact that mercury is a multipotent toxin with effects on several levels of the biochemical dynamics of the cell, amalgam must be considered to be an unsuitable material for dental restoration.” [see also lead story from Bio-Probe Newsletter, May 2003 –Ed.]
Dr. Eichmiller, the ADA’s expert, served up the usual and expected comments: “What science and experience tells us is that amalgam, like all other dental filling materials currently in use, is safe and effective.” He further stated, “It is true that amalgam contains mercury, but when it is mixed with metals such as silver, copper and tin, it forms a stable alloy that dentists have used for years to successfully treat dental disease in millions of people.”
Following his testimony, the fun began. Every bit of disinformation he uttered was systematically dissected and disposed of by the world-class scientists to his immediate right, as well as by the pointed questioning by both Burton and Watson. One couldn’t help but muse that if this was the best the ADA could throw at our experts, they are in DEEP trouble.
After the first panel adjourned, the ADA entourage quietly vaporized from sight, and the second panel of experts was sworn in. These witnesses were Congressman Mike Michaud (ME), Chester Yokoyama, DDS, Sandra Duffy, and Emmit Carlton. Michaud discussed his bill that Maine enacted to require informed consent about mercury dental fillings, acknowledging the help he received from Dr. Jerry Vermette (IAOMT member) and others. He concluded his remarks with, “Now, my fellow members of Congress, it is time to take this issue nationally. The citizens of Maine sent me here to keep working on this issue and it is my hope that all Americans will gain access to information on dental amalgams.”
Chester Yokoyama (IAOMT member, member of California Dental Board) discussed the issue if informed consent for dental consumers. He gave a very cogent and professional presentation, and upon questioning by Watson, shared what many dentists have experienced – that is the intimidation by dental boards. She asked him to let her know if he received any flack in their home state of California. Sandy Duffy, an attorney from Oregon, dropped a bombshell: she testified that 222 studies were funded with government monies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) over the past decade alone, of which only ONE has ever been published. In all, NIDCR has funded 543 taxpayer-paid studies which were conducted specifically to determine the safety and effectiveness of mercury dental fillings. She concluded, “The only logical conclusion to be drawn from the failure to publish these studies is that they support the position of the proponents of mercury-free dentistry, i.e. that mercury amalgam is neither safe nor effective as a dental restorative material.”
Finally, Emmitt Carlton, Jr. (Immediate Past President of the Virginia NAACP) gave strong testimony that the NAACP was in full support of the new Watson-Burton Bill (H.R. 1680) to see an end to the use of mercury fillings.
Both Watson and Burton were masterful in their understanding of the issues and the hidden agendas of some within organized dentistry. The hearing was brilliantly choreographed by John Rowe. Burton’s final statement to the ADA representatives pulled no punches: “We will continue to bring you back again as we accumulate enough research to get mercury out of everybody’s mouth, and you can bank on that!”