Sweden did NOT get rid of mercury fillings solely for environmental reasons

tom_mangoldBBC Panorama:The Poison in Your Mouth
July 11, 1994

Tom Mangold of BBC Panorama interviews Siw Persson, a member of Swedish parliament. Tom learns that Sweden did NOT get rid of mercury fillings solely for environmental reasons as many pro-mercury filling advocates claim.


BBC Panorama:
The Poison in Your Mouth
July 11, 1994.


MANGOLD (BBC): People say that the only reason the Swedes are banning dental amalgam is on environmental grounds. Now is that true?

SIW PERSSON (Member of Swedish Parliament): No, really not. It’s one reason, but the most important reason is, of course, a health reason.

MANGOLD (BBC): Why has Sweden been the first country to ban dental amalgam because there’s still no evidence, there’s no final proof, that dental amalgam actually hurts human beings?

PERSSON: We said we have seen enough. Now we have to stop it, before much more people are more sick than they are today.

(Vision cuts away from interview)

VOICE OVER: The use of amalgam in children under the age of nineteen will be totally banned exactly one year from now. All amalgam fillings for adults will cease by 1997. The Swedes are fully aware that there is still no proven evidence that dental amalgam harms humans. But they’ve been reading the latest evidence, and their assessment of the risk-benefit ratio has been changed by it forever. The health benefits of amalgam, they judge, are no longer worth the risks.

Now, other countries are following Sweden’s lead. In Germany, amalgam is banned for patients with kidney problems and advised to be used with great caution in children and pregnant women. Austria plans to ban mercury in amalgams within six years. And in California, a new law now demands that dentists who use amalgam display a health warning to their patients.

Germany and the headquarters of Degussa, one of the world’s larger manufacturers of dental amalgam. Even they’ve now decided to get out of amalgam, thus abandoning nearly half their dental products turnover. They say that there are innocent commercial reasons for this, but one of their executives suggests there’s prudence in the decision too.

(Vision cuts to new interview)

MANGOLD (BBC): You are saying that despite all this new scientific evidence that it happens to be a commercial coincidence that you’re getting out of amalgam?

Dr. MATTHIAS KUHNER (Senior Manager, Degussa): It was a decision that was driven by business reasons.

MANGOLD (BBC): Which would include legal reasons?

KUHNER: Definitely when you are looking at a business, legal action can have an influence on your business. It can greatly increase the cost of your business if you have to take a lot of legal actions, or have to deal with legal actions, even if you are sure that in most cases, or in all the cases, you come out with being found not guilty.

MANGOLD (BBC): And finally, Dr. Kuhner, thank you for being so patient with me, in that sense surely the writing is on the wall for amalgam?

KUHNER: Well, as I said before, I feel that use of amalgam is going to decline even more in many nations.

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