N.H. Legislation Requires Dentists to Notify Patients About Mercury Risks

Press Releases: 04.18.02

First-in-the-Nation Requirement Included for Dentists to Reduce Mercury Pollution

Corcord, NH-- The New Hampshire legislature passed HB 1251, a bill requiring dentists to notify patients about the risks of mercury fillings and what the alternatives are--and to reduce dental mercury pollution. HB 1251 now awaits the signature of the governor, whose chief-of-staff has expressed strong support for the bill during a recent hearing.

"Right now, most people probably don't know that mercury is part of their fillings, said State Representative Hal Lynde (D-Pelham), the primary bill sponsor. "HB 1251 will require dentists to inform patients about mercury amalgam fillings."

In a national first, HB 1251 will also require state rules for dentists to install "environmentally appropriate disposal equipment" to trap mercury. "New Hampshire is the first in the country to require dentists to install separator equipment to trap mercury waste and keep it out of the environment," said Michael Bender, Director of the Montpelier, VT-based Mercury Policy Project. "Through installing amalgam separators and employing best management practices, dentists can drastically reduce mercury releases into the environment by 95 percent of more."

Rep. Lynde echoed that perspective. "HB 1251 would also help to reduce the amount of mercury getting into the environment from dentist offices through more efficient filtering and separation systems," said Rep. Lynde. "This will help to assure a cleaner environment."

In addition, HB 1251 requires the state to provide information on the risks of mercury, especially to children under 6.

"The detrimental health effects from dental mercury fillings can be staggering," said Rosie Cronin, Coordinator of the N.H. Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome, who has suffered extensively from mercury poisoning. "HB 1251 is critically needed to keep mercury out of pregnant women and children's bodies, and inform the general public in New Hampshire about the potentially devastating health effects of dental mercury."

"This is historic legislation both for consumer awareness and environment protection," said Charlie Brown with Consumers for Dental Choice. "Once again, New England is leading the way to eliminate mercury from our mouths and from the water."

Last year, Maine passed legislation to require dentists to notify patients about the use of mercury in fillings. (Maine's LD1409, "An Act To Address The Health Effects of Mercury Fillings," is at: http://janus.state.me.us/legis/bills/LD.asp?LD=1409.)

And just last week, United States Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-Calif) and Congressman Dan Burton (R-Indiana) introduced legislation with the following goals: 1) no mercury amalgam for children under 18, or for pregnant women, or for nursing mothers - effective July 1, 2002; 2) "disclosure before exposure" health warning for all - effective July 1, 2002; and 3) a phase out of all amalgam use, for anyone in the USA, in five years.

Many countries outside of the U.S. have also taken steps to discourage dental mercury use. A "Health Canada Position Statement on Dental Amalgam" recommends: "Non-mercury filling materials should be considered for restoring the primary teeth of children; Whenever possible, amalgam fillings should not be placed in or removed from the teeth of pregnant women." (To view the Health Canada Position, see http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ hpb-dgps/therapeut/zfiles/english/publicat/dental_position_e.html)

As early as 1988, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare stressed that mercury amalgam is an unsuitable dental filling material from a toxicological point of view. At that time, the Board recommended that treatment of pregnant women with amalgam should be avoided as far as possible. Most recently, the Board has since taken further steps to ban the use of mercury fillings in pregnant women and children.

Three national organizations have joined together in support of addressing dental mercury issues.

Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome (DAMS) is a non-profit organization formed in 1990 that educates the public on non-toxic dentistry and how to recover from the effects of toxic dentistry. DAMS has over 100 coordinators across North America and a quarterly newsletter with a circulation of 6000 (For more information about DAMS, see http://www.dams.cc.)

Consumers for Dental Choice is a Washington, DC organization created to end to the use of mercury in dentistry and "level the playing field" between the powerful state Dental Boards and dentists interested in being mercury-free. (For more information see www.Toxicteeth.net)

The Mercury Policy Project is a project of the Tides Center dedicated to reducing and eliminating mercury emissions and exposures and works on mercury issues at the local, state, national and international levels. (For more information about the Mercury Policy Project, see www.mercurypolicy.org.)

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