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Editor's Note:  For the last 10 years there has been a controversy about the safety of mercury-sliver dental fillings also known as amalgam.  So what do we really know about this in the year 2006?  Here are some things to think about:

  • Mercury is a deadly poison if ingested in sufficient but relatively small quantities.  Lower quantities simply work to reduce if not damage the function of our immune system and key organs like the kidneys, stomach.  Mercury is a poison!  This is accepted as a simple fact by everybody.   
  • The US EPA and Department of Health have established 0.1 micrograms per 1 kg. of body weight as the maximum daily intake of the type of mercury found in many fish.
  • The US FDA does not seem to have established a maximum daily permissible intake as of this writing, (April 7, 2006) but on their website they say that they are leaning toward the EPA number of 0.1 microgram which is literally millions of mercury atoms.
  • Canada, many countries in Europe and Japan are about 1/2 of the US amount.
  • The American Dental Association states on their website that:
"A minute amount of mercury vapor may be released by amalgam fillings due to vigorous chewing and grinding . . ."  American Dental Association website
They don't say anything about the total amount of mercury vapor will be released from 20 or 30 years of chewing and grinding.  We do know that mercury fillings after they have been removed from your mouth are considered toxic waste by the EPA and have to be safely disposed of in accordance with EPA regulations.  Strange that things are different while the amalgam is in your mouth.

Today the argument is simply over the dosage of this deadly material.  Not if it can do damage or not.  Everybody agrees that even a low intake of mercury in any of its various forms will do some damage to the human body.  So now we have a question of what is the acceptable level of damage?  I guess this is question you need to answer for yourself.

So I ask you, "What is the diminished output of your kidneys, stomach or immune system that you would consider "acceptable" because of mercury poisoning when you know you have the option to avoid or eliminate this risk?  I know what my answer is, especially because I now have the options that the knowledge about this brings to me.  Whether Sweden and Germany have banned or are going to ban the use of amalgam for dental fillings is of no consequence to me.  I have a zero tolerance for any avoidable substances that might, just might damage me even so slightly.  I claim the right to know about these substances and their possible side-effects for myself. I reject the thesis that a certain level of damage may be acceptable.  Acceptable to whom?  Not to me!Whether the amalgam fillings in your teeth or my teeth contributed directly or indirectly to our arthritis is not the point here.  We see testimonials from people all over the world who have had their amalgam fillings replaced and then have noticed a meaningful improvement in their feeling of well being.  Was this because they eliminated from their body the source of year's of accumulated mercury that had built up or was it just a placebo effect?  Do placebo effects last for months and years?  Were they able to remain arthritis free because of no further ongoing mercury seeping into their body with each meal or cup of tea? Or did they just get a good looking, better smelling mouth and nothing more?

 The FDA information about mercury in fish is especially interesting.

The amount of mercury in fish that the FDA considers safe is controversial.  Canada set its safe level at half the FDA level.  The EPA and Japan set levels even lower. The FDA level is used by the European Commission and for international trade in predatory species such as shark and swordfish. For all other fish, however, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations set a level of half that of the FDA. Clearly, there is no agreement about safe mercury levels.

Mercury sources and toxicity
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK. Mercury is a highly toxic metal associated with damage to the kidneys and central nervous system. Mercury vapour is emitted from volcanoes, coal-burning power stations, and municipal incinerators and returns to the earth through rain contaminated with metallic mercury. Metallic mercury is methylated to methyl mercury in oceans and lakes and enters the food chain via fish and other seafood. Long-lived predator fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and pike and bass in fresh water are the main sources of methyl mercury. Dental amalgams are an important source of mercury vapour and the vaccine preservative thimerosal is a significant source of ethyl mercury.

Researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine recently published a review of what is currently known about mercury toxicity. Among the highlights:

  • Mercury vapour, methyl mercury and ethyl mercury all target the central nervous system and mercury vapour and ethyl mercury also target the kidneys. Inorganic (metallic) mercury primarily targets the kidneys and stomach.
  • Chelators such as DMSA are effective in removing all forms of mercury from the body, but cannot reverse central nervous system damage.
  • The allowable or safe intake of mercury has recently been reduced to 0.1 microgram/day per kilogram of body weight.
  • The concentration of mercury in the brain, blood and urine correlates with the number of amalgam fillings in one's mouth. The concentration increases markedly with increased chewing. Long-term use of nicotine gum by people with amalgam (silver) fillings may increase levels by a factor of 10, thus approaching occupational safety limits.
  • There is concern, but no clear evidence, that mercury emitted from amalgam fillings may cause or worsen degenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
  • Ethyl mercury (thimerosal) is used as a preservative in vaccines. Recent concerns about its toxicity have caused US authorities to take steps to remove it by switching from multi-dose vials to single-dose vials that do not require a preservative.
  • A recent move by power companies to replace mercury containing pressure-control devices for domestic gas supplies has led to numerous spills of mercury in homes. Some 200,000 homes were affected in one recent incident. The liquid mercury is difficult to remove and gives off highly toxic vapours, which are particularly harmful to infants and children.
  • Several studies have found an association between mercury exposure and cardiovascular disease, but other studies have failed to confirm the connection.

Clarkson, Thomas W., et al. The toxicology of mercury – current exposures and clinical manifestations. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 349, October 30, 2003, pp. 1731-37


Guidelines on Exposure to Organomercurials

Mercury is an element that is dispersed widely around the earth. Most of the mercury in the water, soil, plants and animals is found as inorganic mercury salts. Mercury accumulates in the aquatic food chain, primarily in the form of the methylmercury, an organomercurial. Organic forms of mercury are more easily absorbed when ingested and are less readily eliminated from the body than are inorganic forms of mercury. Humans are exposed to methylmercury primarily from the consumption of seafood (Mahaffey et al. 1997).

Methylmercury is a neurotoxin. The toxicity of methylmercury was first recognized during the late 1950s and early 1960s when industrial discharge of mercury into Minimata Bay, Japan led to the widespread consumption of mercury-contaminated fish (Harada 1995). Epidemics of methylmercury poisoning also occurred in Iraq during the 1970s when seed grain treated with a methylmercury fungicide was accidentally used to make bread (Bakir et al. 1973). During these epidemics, fetuses were found to be more sensitive to the effects of methylmercury than adults. Maternal exposure to high levels of methylmercury resulted in infants exhibiting severe neurologic injury including a condition resembling cerebral palsy, while their mothers showed little or no symptoms. Sensory and motor neurologic dysfunction and developmental delays were observed among some children who were exposed in utero to lower levels of methylmercury.

More recently, several epidemiological studies have examined the effect of low dose dietary exposure to methylmercury, with inconsistent results. Studies from the Faroe Islands reported that subtle cognitive deficits (e.g., performance on attention, language, and memory tests), detectable by sophisticated neuropsychometric testing, were associated with methylmercury levels previously thought to be safe (Grandjean et al 1997). Studies in the Seychelles, evaluating more global developmental outcomes, did not reveal any correlation between abnormalities and methylmercury levels (Davidson et al. 1998).

Various agencies have developed guidelines for safe exposure to methylmercury, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Mahaffey et al. 1997), U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR 1999), the FDA (Federal Register 1979)1, and the World Health Organization (WHO 1996). These exposure levels range from 0.1 µg/kg body weight/day (EPA) to 0.47 µg/kg body weight/day (WHO)2. The range of recommendations is due to varying safety margins, differing emphasis placed on various sources of data, the different missions of the agencies and the population that the guideline is intended to protect. All guidelines, however, fall within the same order of magnitude. While these guidelines may be used as screening tools in risk assessment to evaluate the "safety" of mercury exposures, they are not meant to be bright lines above which toxicity will occur. However, as exposure levels increase in multiples of these guidelines, there is increasing concern on the part of the public health community that adverse health consequences may occur (Mahaffey 1999).

To address the issue of conflicting methylmercury exposure guidelines, Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the toxicological effects of methylmercury and provide recommendations on the establishment of a scientifically appropriate methylmercury reference dose (RfD). (National Research Council 2000). Their report concluded that the EPA's current reference dose, the RfD, for methylmercury, 0.1 µg/kg/day is a scientifically justifiable level for the protection of human health. The FDA is considering this and other data relevant to its exposure guideline for methylmercury.

Mercury linked to heart disease
HELSINKI, FINLAND. Researchers at the University of Kuopio in Finland have just completed a major study which clearly implicates mercury as a major cause of heart attacks and other coronary and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers set out to discover why men in Eastern Finland who eat lots of locally caught fish have an exceptionally high mortality from cardiovascular disease. Their conclusion was that the non-fatty freshwater fish eaten in Eastern Finland contains large amounts of mercury. The researchers discovered that men who had a high fish consumption not only had a high mercury content in their hair and urine, but also had a two-fold higher risk of having a heart attack and a three-fold higher risk of dying from heart disease than did men with a lower content of mercury in their hair. Men who ate fatty, ocean-caught fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna did not have an increased level of mercury in their hair. The researchers believe that mercury promotes heart disease in several ways: mercury promotes free radical generation; it inactivates the body's natural antioxidant glutathione; and it binds with selenium thus making it unavailable as an antioxidant and component of glutathione peroxidase. All these mechanisms would lead to an increased level of lipid peroxidation and subsequent heart disease. The researchers also point out that earlier studies have discovered a clear correlation between the number of amalgam tooth fillings and the risk of heart attack. Selenium and vitamin E have both been found to have a protective effect against mercury toxicity.
Salonen, Jukka T. et al. Intake of mercury from fish, lipid peroxidation, and the risk of myocardial infarction and coronary, cardiovascular, and any death in Eastern Finnish men. Circulation, Vol. 91, No. 3,
February 1, 1995, pp. 645-55

Amalgam fillings and hearing loss
FORT COLLINS, COLORADO. The leaching of toxic mercury from amalgam fillings has been implicated in hearing loss. Mercury toxicity has also been linked to multiple sclerosis (MS). It is believed that the toxic effects of mercury cause damage to the blood brain barrier, demyelination (damage to the nerves' myelin sheaths) and slowing of the nerve conduction velocity. Now researchers at the Rocky Mountain Research Institute provide convincing proof that dental amalgam fillings may be responsible for the hearing loss often experienced by multiple sclerosis patients. Their experiment involved seven women aged 32-46 years who had been diagnosed with MS. The women underwent a standard hearing test in a sound booth and then had all their amalgam fillings replaced with composites. Six to eight months later they were again given the hearing test. Six of the seven patients had significantly improved hearing in the right ear and five of the seven showed improvement in the left ear. Overall, hearing improved an average of eight decibels. The researchers conclude that amalgam fillings may be a significant factor in hearing loss experienced by MS patients and could be a factor in hearing loss in other people as well.
Siblerud, Robert L. and Kienholz, Eldon. Evidence that mercury from dental amalgam may cause hearing loss in multiple sclerosis patients. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 4, Fourth Quarter, 1997, pp. 240-44

Dental amalgams come under fire - again!
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND. The New Zealand Ministry of Health is reviewing its policy on the use of mercury-containing amalgams for tooth fillings. This review comes hard on the heels of a precautionary advice from the UK Department of Health which warns pregnant women not to have amalgam fillings installed. Dr. Mike Godfrey, a leading environmental physician, points out that several major amalgam manufacturers have issued Material Safety Data Sheets and Directions for Use which clearly warns of the many dangers of amalgam fillings. Among the restrictions - amalgam fillings should not be used next to fillings or crowns containing other metals, they should not be used under crowns, they should not be used in patients with kidney disease, in pregnant women or in children aged six years or younger. The manufacturers also warn that mercury vapours from amalgam fillings can induce psychiatric symptoms in extremely low concentrations. Depression, mental deterioration, and irritability are among the symptoms listed. Amalagam fillings are banned in Sweden and Health Canada has proposed a limit of one (two surfaces) amalgam fillings in a child and four (eight surfaces) in an adult. Dr. Godfrey points out that his chronic fatigue syndrome patients have an average of 15 amalgam fillings each and exhibit many of the symptoms that the amalgam manufacturers are warning against.
Godfrey, M.E. and Feek, Colin. Dental amalgam. New Zealand Medical Journal, Vol. 111, August 28, 1998, p. 326 (letters to the editor)

Dental alloys affect cellular energy production
NOTE: We usually do not report test tube or animal experiments, but thought we would make an exception in this case. The findings that commonly used dental alloys may interrupt the normal function of human cells is a first and could have wide-ranging effects.

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA. Although nickel is known to be carcinogenic in humans it is still widely used in certain dental alloys. Researchers at the University of Alabama now report that other components of dental alloys (beryllium, chromium, and molybdenum) as well as nickel affect the very basic function of human cells - the production of energy (ATP). ATP is produced in the mitochondria of cells and involves highly oxidative processes. It is becoming increasingly clear that abnormalities in the mitochondrial processes are important causes of human disease. Some researchers believe that a slowing down of these processes actually heralds the very first stage in the proliferation of abnormal cells and cancer.
Alabama researchers exposed cultures of human gingival (gum) cells to solutions of nickel, beryllium, chromium (tri- and hexavalent) and molybdenum (hexavalent) for periods of 24 and 72 hours. They then measured the energy production and oxygen consumption of the cells' mitochondria in the various solutions. Cells in contact with nickel or hexavalent chromium were most affected and showed decreased ATP (energy) production as well as a decrease in oxygen consumption. The effects of beryllium, molybdenum, and trivalent chromium were similar, but less pronounced. The researchers conclude that their findings may be the first indication that some components of common dental alloys may be detrimental to human health. They urge further research to establish possible synergisms between mixtures of these different metals on mitochondrial energy production. [54 references]
Messer, R.L.W., et al. An investigation of fibroblast mitochondria enzyme activity and respiration in response to metallic ions released from dental alloys. J Biomed Mater Res, Vol. 50, 2000, pp. 598- 604

Trigeminal neuralgia linked to amalgam fillings
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA. Dr. William Cheshire, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, reports on a case where a woman's trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) was traced to a galvanic reaction between an amalgam filling and an adjacent gold-alloy crown. Consumption of tomatoes and other acidic foods produced intense jolts described as being like those of an "electrical battery". The jolts in turn resulted in excruciating pain in the trigeminal nerve. Replacing the amalgam filling with a composite resolved the problem. Dr. Cheshire points out that dissimilar metals in contact with saliva can form a galvanic cell which can generate electrical currents with several hundred millivolts of potential. He points out that many patients with trigeminal neuralgia describe their pain in terms of "electrical" jolts and concludes that his patient's neuralgia may well have been triggered by the galvanic reaction between the amalgam filling and the gold crown.
Cheshire, William P., Jr. The shocking tooth about trigeminal neuralgia. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 342, June 29, 2000, p. 2003 (correspondence

FDA, EPA Revise Guidelines on Mercury in Fish

By Carol Rados

One minute you hear that eating fish is good for your heart. The next, you find out that eating certain types of fish can be harmful.

Actually, there are benefits and risks to eating fish. Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet. They contain high-quality protein, other essential nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids, and fish are low in saturated fat. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to a healthy heart and to healthy, well-developed children.

However, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury, a type of mercury found in water that can be harmful, especially to unborn babies and young children whose nervous systems are still developing. Some types of fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury. The risks depend on the amount of fish and shellfish eaten and the levels of mercury in the seafood.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through a joint consumer advisory, warn that women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid the types of fish and shellfish with higher levels of mercury and eat only those that have lower levels.

Here's more information about the mercury in fish and shellfish, and what you should know.

Q. What is mercury and methylmercury?

A. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and also can be released into the air through industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans. Bacteria in the water cause chemical changes that transform the mercury into methylmercury. It is this type of mercury that can be harmful to unborn babies and young children. Fish absorb the methylmercury as they feed in these waters. Methylmercury builds up in the tissue of some types of fish and shellfish more than others depending on what the fish eat. That's why levels vary among species and locations.

Q. Should a woman who is not pregnant, but could become pregnant, be concerned about methylmercury?

A. Yes. If you regularly eat types of fish high in methylmercury, the substance can accumulate in your blood over time. Methylmercury is removed from the body naturally, but it may take more than a year for the levels to drop significantly. Therefore, it may be present in a woman even before she becomes pregnant. That is why women who are trying to become pregnant also should avoid eating certain types of fish.

Q. Do all fish and shellfish contain methylmercury?

A. Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury. However, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methylmercury because it has accumulated over time. Large fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish pose the greatest risk. Other types of fish and shellfish may be eaten in the amounts recommended by the FDA and EPA.

Q. Where can I get information about the types of fish I eat?

A. Information about the levels of methylmercury in the various types of fish you eat can be found at the FDA food safety Web site: www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-mehg.html or the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/ost/fish/.

Q. Should I be concerned about fish sticks and fast food sandwiches that are made with fish?

A. Fish sticks and fast food sandwiches are commonly made from fish low in mercury.

Q. Although advice is provided about canned tuna, what is the advice about tuna steaks?

A. Because tuna steak generally contains higher levels of mercury than canned light tuna, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces of tuna steak per week.

Q. What will happen if I eat more than the recommended amount of fish and shellfish in a week?

A. One week's consumption of fish does not change the level of mercury in the body much. If you eat a lot of fish one week, you can cut back for the next week or two. Just make sure to average the recommended amount per week.

Q. Where can I get information about the safety of fish caught recreationally in lakes, streams, and rivers?

A. Before you go fishing, check the appropriate fishing regulations booklet for information about recreationally caught fish. You can also contact your local health department for information about advisories in your area. Check local advisories because some kinds of fish and shellfish caught in local waters may have widely varying levels of mercury, depending on the levels of mercury in the water. Fish with much lower levels may be eaten more frequently and in larger amounts.

Editor's Note:  We are lucky that the mercury vapor that is emitted from our amalgam fillings is a small quantity. But when this small quantity repeats daily, then what?  Nobody knows what is our actual tolerance for this deadly poison when ingested over time.  Did years of having amalgam filings in your mouth weaken your immune system to the point where it was unable to fight off the free living amoebas that years of clinical trials show to be the most likely cause of arthritis?   This is a question only you can answer for yourself.  I know what my answer was and I no longer have arthritis.
This page was up-dated April 7, 2006
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