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Nov 7 2001

#1  CA State Government Votes to Dismantle CA Dental Board

From: (Jeff Green)

On Friday, October 5, 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill that will be heard across the nation, eliminating a state agency because it repeatedly refused to follow the law, or common sense. Mark this in time, as it is only the first of a series of setbacks for a recalcitrant dental establishment that will not listen to even its own constituency.

We expect that the Department of Consumer Affairs will provide a refreshing outlook that actually will place the interests of the consumer above the special interest agendas of the dental politicos.

The following is a report and congratulations from Charlie Brown, of Swankin and Turner, attorneys for Consumers for Dental Choice, and nationwide advocates that have ground out this successful scenario and kept the Board's nose to the task that they didn't want to perform.

Hi, folks.

Governor Davis signed S.B. 134 yesterday (Oct. 5).  Thus, on Dec. 31, 2001, the California Dental Board ceases to exist.  A brand new Board will be appointed.  The law also requires that the Fact Sheet must be given to the patient; the dentist has a duty to ensure patients read it before placing any toxins into their mouths. Finally, the Board executive director must be approved by Director Hamilton of the Dept of Consumers Affairs, a step to ensure more consumer accountability.  Clearly, the Governor has listened to the California public and put his signature to an excellent new law.

Senator Liz Figueroa wrote the right bill for the right situation.  Thank you, Senator!  For years, the Board harassed and intimidated mercury-free dentists, threatening and even taking their licenses, preventing the emergence of informed consumer choice. And for nine years, the Board has refused to comply with the Watson law, which requires a Fact Sheet the Board to list the "risks" of mercury amalgam.  (You probably know that Diane Watson is now a U.S. Congresswoman, and she continues to play a major role in insisting that the law she wrote be complied with.)  At meeting after meeting this year, the Dental Board chose to ignore the presence and testimony of legions of California consumers, instead acceding to the position of the ADA and covering up the risks of mercury fillings. Your voice was ignored by organized dentistry, but it was heard loud and clear in Sacramento.  So, by kowtowing to the outrageous position that mercury is safe, the California Dental Board signed its own political death warrant.

So go ahead and pop the root beer.  We did it! To put a state agency out of business is almost unprecedented.  Kudos to us all, but especially to Anita Vazquez Tibau, who truly electrified this movement in California and built a broad-based coalition of rich and poor, of Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, and Asian, of victims and consumer advocates. Move over, Erin Brockovitch.

The message is now clear across the nation.  In California, the nation's trendsetter state, freedom now exists to practice mercury-free dentistry. Other Boards who harass and intimidate mercury-free dentistry be forewarned: it is time to recognize the strength of our grassroots movement.

After you have emptied the keg of root beer, note that two battles lie ahead this fall in Calif:

1. As a lame duck agency, the Board is trying one more time to adopt a Fact Sheet that complies with the dictates of the ADA.  The Board is meeting in L.A. on Oct. 17 for a last-ditch effort to ignore the legislative will. Instead of passing the solemn duty of writing a Fact Sheet on to their legitimate successors, the Board is trying to rush through a midnight Fact Sheet that pretends mercury fillings are safe, even for children and pregnant women.

2.  The new Board members:  We are deeply proud of Governor Davis and his team for recognizing the need to re-create this Board.  Now, we hope the Governor will choose to appoint a diversity of dentists, including some from the large and growing contingency of mercury-free men and women dentists in the state.  It is time that the CDA monopoly on dentist appointments be broken; this is the right time for the Governor to do it!

Congratulations to Leo Cashman and the great team at DAMS, who created this movement.  And a salute to us all.  America can come back.

Oct. 6, 2001
(Please distribute)

#2  CA Congresswoman announces prohibition of mercury bill

From: (Jeff Green)

Statement by Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles)
Mercury in Dental Filling Disclosure and Prohibition Act
Los Angeles, California
November 5, 2001

In times like these, there are toxins that we don't know much about - how to control them, their source, and their impact.  But there are toxins that we DO know about -- toxins that we know do not belong in our bodies, toxins that we can do something about.  My bill addresses that very problem.

  Mercury is an acute neuro-toxin.  It is the most toxic non-radioactive element and the most volatile heavy metal.   In recent years, it has been, or is being, removed from all health care uses, save one.  Antibiotics have replaced oral doses of Mercury.  The disinfectant Mercurochrome is banned.  Recently, the Centers for Disease Control ordered Mercury preservatives removed from childhood vaccines.  Mercury preservatives are no longer used in contact lens solutions.  This year, legislatures in California and several other states banned Mercury thermometers.  When Governor Gray Davis signed bills addressing Mercury in thermometers and in dental fillings, he said, "Mercury is a persistent and toxic pollutant that bioaccumulates in the environment."  In recent years, the American Public Health Association, the California Medical Association, and Health Care Without Harm have all called for the elimination of putting any Mercury in the human body.

  Today, I am announcing legislation to disclose and phase-out the last major use of Mercury in the human body.  The fillings that organized dentistry wrongly calls "silver" are mainly Mercury, not "silver."

Mercury is the major ingredient in each filling, about one-half gram per.   In the words of Professor Boyd Haley of the University of Kentucky, that is a "colossal" amount of Mercury in scientific terms - as much, in fact, as is in a thermometer.  A teenager with six fillings has six Mercury thermometers worth of Mercury in his or her mouth.

    The Mercury in the fillings is volatile, such that - as all authorities concede - poisonous vapors are constantly being emitted from the fillings, more so when one chews or passes hot liquid over the teeth.  The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry of the United States Public Health Service reports that those poisonous vapors go first to the brain and kidneys.  For the developing brain - and by that I mean a child's brain - a major health risk exists.

       It is in fact children who are at greatest risk from these fillings.  The government of Canada recommended back in 1996 that dentists not place fillings in the mouths of children or pregnant women.  (The 1999 report on Mercury by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry says Mercury passes through the placenta into the developing child's brain.)  In 1997, a major manufacturer of dental amalgam, Dentsply, said that amalgam is CONTRAINDICATED (translation: DO NOT USE) for children and pregnant women, as well as for those with braces, Mercury hypersensitivities, or kidney problems.  Another manufacturer, Vivadent, added a contraindication for nursing mothers.   (That 1999 government report says the Mercury goes through the mother's breast milk into the baby.)

        Why don't consumers already know this?  The answer is a disappointing one.  Organized dentistry is extremely divided on this issue.  My bill, in fact, is supported by the American Academy of Biological Dentistry.  But the American Dental Association tells the public that the fillings are safe.  The ADA does not tell the public that it accepts payments from the amalgam manufacturers while it pronounces their product safe.  I wish to note that the American Medical Association has a policy prohibiting the organization from taking money for product endorsements.  The ADA, by contrast, accepts money from the manufacturers of the products it endorses, which certainly hurts its credibility in my mind.

The public does not know about the presence of Mercury and its risks for two reasons.  First, the fillings are falsely called "silver."  This term is deceptive, because there is much more Mercury than silver in the product.  It's time to call it what it is, and quit hiding the large presence of Mercury.

Second, the ADA has a rule that gags dentists from talking about the risks of Mercury amalgam, a rule that some dental boards enforce against dentists who call for the elimination of Mercury in dental fillings.  I understand that rule is being challenged by dentists in federal court in Maryland based on the First Amendment.

Developments in this area have been quite encouraging this year in my state.  In 1992, as a state Senator, I wrote a law that required the Dental Board of California to write a "Fact Sheet" about the "risks and efficacies" of dental fillings.  My goal was to ensure the public could make informed choices about Mercury dental amalgam.  But the Dental Board continued to ignore the law and, in recent years, defy the Davis Administration's insistence that it comply with this law.   After an impasse, including the Board refusing to show up for a hearing in Los Angeles on this issue, the Legislature stepped in and shut down the Board.   I am told that never before has the California Legislature shut down a board before its Sunset date expired.  In January, a new Dental Board will come into existence.

A major environmental issue exists here.  When removed from a patient's mouth, Mercury amalgam is a hazardous waste, and it is often improperly disposed of.  The more Mercury that goes into people's teeth, the more of it that will end up in our water supply.  I am delighted, therefore, that San Francisco-based Clean Water Action is supporting my bill, and I look forward to other environmental groups joining us in this effort.

The occupational risk is significant.  Dental employees are constantly exposed to the vapors.  Women in dental offices have lower fecundity (pregnancy) rates, more miscarriages, and more problem births; Mercury exposure is the likely reason.  Dentists have the highest suicide rate of any profession; depression leading to suicide is consistent with a diagnosis of Mercury toxicity.

Mercury amalgam is dangerous before it is put in the mouth - any dental journal will tell you that - and it is considered hazardous waste after it has been removed.  Who can conclusively say it's safe in between, when it is in our bodies?

      A major social justice, or environmental justice, issue exists here.  While the public lacks informed choice, low- and moderate-income people have it worse: they have no choice at all!  For families on Medi-Cal, the children get Mercury - or nothing.  It is outrageous that low-income Americans are forced to have such a toxic material put in their mouths.  I understand that the Rhode Island legislature adopted a law this year to provide choice in insurance plans, and that the state of Maine permits Medicaid children to get alternatives to amalgam - so, yes, we can do it differently.

    Mercury, and all other poisons in the body, hurt the body's immune system - its ability to withstand diseases and biologically harmful agents.  If at any time in our nation's history we need strong immune systems, it is now.  The stronger our bodies, the more able we are to fend off biological agents that have so tragically been placed in our midst.

        My bill will protect children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers immediately - regardless of their income.  Henceforth, amalgam will bear warnings that they not be placed in these most vulnerable people.  And there will be health warnings for all consumers of amalgam, also immediately.  Then, there is a five-year phase out of Mercury amalgam. That will give dentistry plenty of time to shift to alternatives that exist in today's market - resin, porcelain, and gold - or to develop new materials.

Dentistry says amalgam is fine because it has been in use for 150 years.  This statement makes no scientific sense.  We have abandoned other remnants of pre-Civil War medicine, and we have abandoned all other uses of Mercury.  It is no longer a question of if, but when, Mercury dental fillings will be history.  I say five more years is time enough. - Home