Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 29, 2006

Mercury isn't safe in dental fillings

The studies cited in "Silver fillings found kid-safe" (April 19) made front-page news when they were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

But it is important to be aware of the critical editorial in the same issue of that journal by Dr. Herbert L. Needleman of the University of Pittsburgh, a scientist who pioneered research on the adverse health effects of lead exposure in children.

He writes that the studies on mercury fillings in children do not address "the delayed effects of early toxic exposure on health later in life."

He also writes, "It is predictable that some outside interest will expand the modest conclusions of these studies to assert the use of mercury amalgam in dentistry is risk-free. This conclusion would be unfortunate and unscientific."

As chairman of the Amalgam Investigation Committee for the American Academy of Head, Neck and Facial Pain, I can say confidently, after many years of researching the scientific literature, that the facts clearly document the potentially dangerous effects of mercury in dental restorations.

At least 17 separate studies support this statement.

Kid-safe silver fillings are actually 46 percent to 56 percent metallic mercury, with varying amounts of silver, copper, zinc and tin.

Mercury is a neurotoxin - more toxic than lead, cadmium or arsenic.

Mercury can damage the nervous system, and infants and toddlers are thought to be particularly at risk because of their low body weight and rapidly developing brains.

That concern is behind the wide-ranging initiatives to cut mercury from industrial plants, warn pregnant women to limit intake of certain types of fish and ban mercury in pediatric vaccines. And in fact several countries have restricted the use of amalgam restoration for health reasons.

Well-designed studies have documented that the daily dose of mercury absorbed by dental patients with amalgam fillings exceeds the government's toxic thresholds for mercury exposure.

There are unavoidable risk factors that we are exposed to daily in our environment. But mercury in dental fillings need not be one of them.

Michael A. Baylin

Baltimore

Waiting to attack Iran adds to danger

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasts loudly about the nuclear bombs his country is building ("Iran warns of pullout from nuclear treaty," April 25). He boasts that Israel will be wiped off the map.

It is as futile and dangerous to negotiate with Mr. Ahmadinejad's Iran as it was to negotiate with Adolf Hitler's Germany in the 1930s.

President Bush deserves severe criticism for not already having our military in the field against Iran.

Every day we delay in fighting Iran increases the cost and danger of fighting that country.

There is every reason to engage in battle now, and no reason to wait any longer.

The Iranian threat to the civilized world must be ended, with the United States leading the way.

Kurt A. Snavely

Hershey, Pa.

Congress must alter the nation's course

Lawrence Wilkerson explained in clear and convincing terms the reasons a majority of Americans feel our nation is headed in the wrong direction ("Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic?" Opinion

Commentary, April 23).

At the same time, he points to the need for Congress to awaken and assume its role as an equal branch of government.

The majority of Americans, who are dissatisfied with our nation's direction, need to send Congress a clear message in the coming election - that it must act responsibly and decisively to correct the precipitous slide in our standing in a rapidly changing world.

E. Niel Carey

Ellicott City

Is the Muslim world willing to co-exist?

Lawrence Wilkerson's latest rant ("Is U.S. being transformed into a radical republic?" Opinion Commentary, April 23) contains much of what we've seen so often on The Sun's opinion pages, but seldom with such a concentration of fervor and punch.

Mr. Wilkerson uses strong words about wanting to cleanse the radicals from our government, to rid us of their "reign of terror," their "hubris and unparalleled radicalism," "new level of sleaze and corruption," "colossal incompetence" "swaggering ineptitude" and "unbridled arrogance."

But then, in a concluding paragraph, he turns away from his domestic demons toward the threat that I consider to be our nation's - and the free world's - greatest danger.

But he tackles it with a dangerously naive, pacifist statement: "We can ... convince the majority of the Islamic world that we can and must co-exist - and eventually prosper together - and at the same time confront, confound and defeat the small element in Islam's midst that lives to murder innocents, Christian, Jew and Muslim alike."

I only hope that Mr. Wilkerson, for the sake of the country he loves, will turn his fiery analytic talent toward a thorough study of that Islamic world, to answer some vital questions.

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