Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Amalgam for Children and Young Women: An Update from the Office of Charles Brown, National Counsel, Consumers for Dental Choice

Public Officials Caucus to FDA Nominee:

No Amalgam for Children, Young Women


The State and Local Public Officials Mercury-Free Caucus has requested that the U.S. Senate health committee give particular attention to the FDA Commissioner nominee’s position on mercury amalgam.


To run FDA, President Obama nominated former New York City health commissioner Margaret Hamburg, who fortunately recognizes the toxicity of mercury.  She has stated, “Mercury is . . . highly poisonous to the brain and kidneys."  

Her nomination is now before the Senate for confirmation, and the Senate health committee will be holding its hearings any day now.  In addition, Senators may also inquire in writing about Dr. Hamburg’s views on issues and plans for FDA, and the public can urge its Senators to do so. 


Hence, the State and Local Public Officials Mercury-Free Caucus has written health committee chairman Senator Ted Kennedy and ranking Republican Senator Mike Enzi (letter republished at bottom).  At the outset, the Caucus letter points out that classifying amalgam will be “one of [Dr. Hamburg’s] first duties,” and stresses, “No good public policy reason exists to continue to use amalgam, especially for children and women of childbearing age.”


Noting that FDA must classify mercury amalgam by this coming July 28, the Caucus asks that Dr. Hamburg give a warning about the mercury to “every patient and parent.”  The caucus then expresses grave concern about the emergence of “two-tiered dentistry,” whereby institutional settings -- even clinics for our servicemen and servicewomen -- still place mercury fillings, even though they are functionally interchangeable with resin composite.


The letter is endorsed by a bipartisan team of 13 current and former public officials, hailing from ten states -- ArizonaCaliforniaConnecticutIowaMaineMinnesotaNew HampshireOhio,Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  Of the Caucus members, eight have served as state legislators, three as local officials (a mayor, a councilman, and a sheriff), and three as dental board members.*  (As you may recall, we initially brought these concerned officials together to issue a powerful comment on FDA’s proposed amalgam rule.)


Now that the State and Local Public Officials Mercury-Free Caucus has spoken, here’s what all Americans can do:  Write your two Senators; see below for how.**  Ask your Senators to inquire if Dr. Hamburg intends to stop amalgam use, at least for children and young women.  Remember, the confirmation process is your opportunity to voice concerns to the Senate and to educate the FDA nominee about mercury fillings. 



23 April 2009


Charles G. Brown, National Counsel

Consumers for Dental Choice

316 F St., N.E., Suite 210WashingtonDC 20002

Ph. 202.544-6333; fax 202.544-6331,

Working for Mercury-Free Dentistry


* Signatories: Teresa Fedor (State Senator, Ohio), Daylin Leach (State Senator, Pa.), Sandra Williams (State Representative, Ohio), Karen Johnson (former State Senator, Ariz.), Charlotte Pritt (former State Senator, West Va..), Jay Goyal (State Representative, Ohio), Hal Lynde (former State Representative, New Hamp.), Marvin L. Van Haaften (former Director, Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, and former Sheriff of Marion County, Iowa), Joanne Twomey (Mayor of Biddeford, Maine, and former State Representative), Michael J. London (Councilman, Trumbull, Conn.), Kevin Biggers (former Member, Dental Board of Calif.), Ron King, DDS (former Member, Minn. Board of Dentistry), Chester L. Yokoyama, DDS (former Member, Dental Board of Calif.)


** How to Contact Your Senators

1.              Go to         

2.              Choose your state from the drop-down menu at the top

3.              Find senators’ addresses and telephone numbers under their names or click on the link next to "Web Form" to send an email



State and Local Public Officials Mercury-Free Caucus

316 F St., N.E., Suite 210-B

Washington DC 20002

Phone 202.544-6333; fax 202.544-6331


The Honorable Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Chairman

The Honorable Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Minority Member

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions


Re: FDA confirmation hearings: Request you forward our concerns to Dr. Hamburg


Dear Chairman Kennedy and Senator Enzi:


One of Commissioner-designate Margaret Hamburg’s first duties, should she be confirmed, will be to classify mercury amalgam. By court order, FDA’s deadline is this July 28.


We created this coalition of state and local public officials because we believe the time is past for the use of mercury-based dental fillings.  Amalgam, a pre-Civil War device, perhaps had transitional value before resin composite was developed as an alternative. But now that resin fillings are interchangeable with amalgam, and now that the health risks of mercury are well-known, no good public policy reason exists to continue to use amalgam, especially for children and women of childbearing age.


May we ask the Chairman and/or Ranking Minority Member to forward our concerns -- and this letter -- to Dr. Hamburg?


First, we agree with Dr. Hamburg when, as Health Commissioner for New York City, she stated that mercury is “highly poisonous to the brain and kidneys.”  We see no reason to exempt mercury implanted in children’s mouths from that statement -- and we trust that neither does she.  Indeed, an inch from the brain is the last place a neurotoxin belongs.  Consider this: When an amalgam is removed from a tooth, it must be placed in a hazardous waste bag only a few seconds after it was in a person’s mouth.


Second, because of the deceptive term “silver fillings” and a gag rule previously enforced by state dental boards, most Americans, according to a Zogby poll, do not know that the fillings are mercury.  Certainly many American parents and pregnant women are trying to shield their children or unborn babies from any mercury exposure.  FDA should require disclosure to every patient and parent of a child patient receiving mercury.


Third, two-tiered dentistry exists today. Gone are the days when everyone got mercury fillings; today, upper-middle-class adults get resin. Consumers -- including, tragically, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines -- still receive mercury fillings in factory-line dental clinics and institutional settings.  Indeed, a witness from the NAACP, testifying before a U.S. House committee, said, “It’s time to end mercury for the poor and choice for the rich,” and added:


“Don’t create a two-tiered system of environmental justice, where we leave the mercury fillings on the Indian reservations, in the inner cities, in the barrios, and in Appalachia.”


We condemn the idea that children, lower-income Americans, and Americans receiving institutional dentistry merit anything less than what the rest of us now receive: toxic-free dentistry.  Dr. Hamburg, if confirmed, should act decisively to protect Americans, especially children and young women, from mercury by limiting, then phasing out the use of amalgam.    




Hon. Teresa Fedor, State Senator, Ohio

Hon. Daylin Leach, State Senator, Pennsylvania

Hon. Sandra Williams, State Representative, Ohio

Hon. Karen Johnson, former State Senator, Arizona

Hon. Charlotte Pritt, former State Senator, West Virginia

Hon. Jay Goyal, State Representative, Ohio

Hon. Hal Lynde, former State Representative, New Hampshire

Hon. Marvin L. Van Haaften, former Director, Iowa Governor's Office

      of Drug Control Policy (“Drug Czar”); former Marion County (Iowa) Sheriff

Hon. Joanne Twomey, Mayor, BiddefordMaine; former State Representative

Hon. Michael J. London, Councilman, TrumbullConnecticut

Hon. Kevin Biggers, former Member, Dental Board, California

Hon. Ron King, DDS, former Member, Board of Dentistry, Minnesota

Hon. Chester L. Yokoyama, DDS, former Member, Dental Board, California



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