Mercury in dental treatment: call for counter-expertise by experts without conflicts of interest

Strasbourg, 23.03.2011 - With a view to the preparation of a report on the health hazards of heavy metals by Jean Huss (Luxembourg, SOC), the Social Affairs Committee held an exchange of views on the dangers of using mercury in dental treatments. Mr Huss pointed out that a growing number of illnesses, in particular chronic diseases, are thought to be caused by heavy metals and other chemical substances that are omnipresent in our living environment. It is therefore high time for recognition of heavy metals as a serious public health problem and for member states to implement all available means of improving the prevention and treatment of the related pathologies.

Marie Grosman of the Association ATC (Association Toxicologie-Chimie), who is a lecturer in the life and earth sciences, drew attention to the fact that mercury has genotoxic, neurotoxic, immunotoxic, reprotoxic, embryotoxic and endocrine disrupting effects.

"This substance is considered as one of the greatest causes for concern, and human exposure to it must be limited as far as possible. There is no risk-free exposure level. Dental mercury is thought to have a role in many pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, so-called auto-immune disorders, kidney disease, infertility, miscarriages, malformations, oral cancers, cancers of the brain, breast cancer, autism, hyperactivity and growth retardation. Exposure levels must be reduced as far as possible, first and foremost in vulnerable population groups - pregnant women, women of reproductive age and children," she underlined.

Michel Goldberg, INSERM of the French Dental Association (ADF) stated: "Mercury is unquestionably a pollutant that must not contaminate soil or water. The presence of mercury in fish meat can and must be monitored. Supervision must be exercised in this respect. Extending it to the health care field is more debatable, and possibly even illogical. The mercury in dental fillings can cause allergies, but it is not known how many people are allergic to it since no systematic study has been carried out. To date there is no other documented impact on patients' health."

He also pointed out that publications linking mercury with lateral amyotrophic syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's) and other pathologies had not been medically confirmed. "For this reason, in view of the strong medical case and the weak accusatory allegations, it would doubtless be a mistake to do away with silver amalgam, at least not until resin fillings can meet the required specifications."

Recalling that the causal link is hard to establish through epidemiological studies, Ms Grosman underlined that this made it all the more necessary to seek counter-expertise from experts without conflicts of interest.