Is dental mercury a threat to health?


July 12, 2008

I was disturbed by the way The Sun's article on dental amalgam portrayed this restorative material ("Fighting Tooth and Nail," July 3).

The article mentioned that there is little scientific evidence to support Moms Against Mercury's claims about the dangers of mercury in amalgam. But there are, in fact, numerous studies that support the contrary view.

One study that compared children who had amalgam fillings with other children concluded that there was no difference in neurological findings for the two groups of children.

And although elevated mercury levels have been found among dental professionals, studies show that consumption of tuna and saltwater fish were the primary exposure factors associated with these mercury levels, not exposure to dental amalgam.

Although some MS patients claim that their symptoms eased once their amalgam fillings were removed, even the National Multiple Sclerosis Society says there is no scientific evidence linking amalgam restorations with neurological diseases.

In attempting to ban dental amalgam, Moms Against Mercury could also increase the oral health disparity that plagues this country.

Amalgam fillings are less expensive (and sometimes longer lasting) than their resin-composite counterparts.

Dental cavities are also strongly correlated with socioeconomic status in this country.

By taking cheaper treatments away from patients who often cannot afford dental treatment, we would risk having people put off treatment and develop more severe diseases a simple amalgam restoration could prevent.

Andrew Swiatowicz, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Class of 2010 at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery.

Maryland's "mercury-free" dentists are stifled from informing patients of risk factors associated with mercury amalgams by the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners.

A decade ago, the board adopted a policy concerning "mercury-free" dentistry practice and advertising. The policy requires dentists to fully inform patients that there are "no legitimate peer-reviewed studies that support a link between mercury amalgams and ill health or the risks of the patient."

Even more ludicrous, the policy requires that "a dentist may advertise that he or she practices and advocates 'mercury-free' dentistry," but the ad must contain a disclaimer noting that no studies link mercury amalgams to poor health outcomes.

This policy flies in the face of the recent settlement agreement in a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration in which the FDA acknowledged and agreed to post on its Web site that "dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses."

In light of this settlement and the FDA's pending rule change that could reclassify mercury amalgams as a more dangerous substance, the state board's policy should be rescinded.

Albert Bedell, Baltimore

The writer is the executive director of the Alliance for Integrative Health Care.

Revival crowds out commuters

I agree with the premise of the article "Parking limit reconsidered" (July 7) that commuters driving to the train station and finding ample free street parking to take mass transit is a good thing. However, living close enough to transit to walk to it without driving a car would be even better.

Fortunately, Mayor Sheila Dixon has been helping the Charles North area go from good to better, and providing street parking for the new offices and loft apartments at Railway Express is only part of this process.

Ms. Dixon's administration has been a partner with the Charles North Community Association and the Central Baltimore Partnership in developing the potential of our community for true transit-oriented development.

Thanks to this effort, along with less crime, better sanitation and better housing code enforcement, this year, the Strand Theater has joined the Charles and Everyman theaters on Charles Street and Windup Space Bar and Gallery has joined Load of Fun and Joe Squared on North Avenue.

As the whole neighborhood continues to redevelop and improve in partnership with the city, commuter parking will necessarily face increased competition from other needs, and may one day need to be replaced with paid-garage parking.

Michael Deets, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Charles North Community Association Inc.

Why sacrifice any open space?

Compromise is not an option when it comes to land preservation ("Talk it over," editorial, July 6). Once land is developed, open space - and potential parks, playgrounds or public playing fields - disappears.

The tempest in Roland Park about the possible development of 17 acres is not just about Roland Park. It is not just about communication between a club and a community.

It is not just about creeping commercialization vs. preserving residential neighborhoods.

It is about the environment of a city.

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