Press Releases: 02.06.06

CONTACT: Michael J. London   Office 203-261-1549  Cell: 203-556-5123 
February 6, 2006

HARTFORD, Feb. 6, 2006 – A New Britain Superior Court judge on Wednesday, February 8 at 11:30 a.m. will hear the opening round in a consumer challenge of a ruling allowing dentists an exemption from a ban on mercury products.

Consumer advocates and health professionals have joined with a national consumer group to challenge a state Department of Environmental Protection ruling that exempts mercury fillings from the state’s strict zero mercury statute.  The lawsuit was filed in October (copies available upon request).

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, joined by the Connecticut State Dental Association, which urges the continued use of mercury, filed a motion to dismiss the case claiming the plaintiffs do not even have the right to bring the lawsuit – they don’t have “standing.”

“If they don’t allow us to challenge the DEP, they allow the DEP to sit as both judge and jury,” said Atty. Douglas Cohen of the Hartford office of the international law firm Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels LLP, representing the plaintiffs.  “The public must have the ability to challenge and review any DEP decision.  Anything else, clearly, is bad precedent with serious negative implications for the future of the environment in Connecticut.”

“If any group of plaintiffs would have standing, it would be the diverse group in this case,” said Cohen, chair of Brown Rudnick’s environmental practice.  “The issue of whether dentists should continue to use mercury when other mercury products are being banned is critical for the Connecticut environment.  The plaintiffs and the public are entitled to a ruling on the merits of the case.”

So-called “silver” amalgam fillings actually are 50% mercury.  State law now phases out all mercury-based products except in some lighting fixtures.  But in the fall, Gina McCarthy, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, ruled that dentists who still use mercury fillings have an “implied” exception to the law.  Consumers for Dental Choice, a national organization with a local affiliate, along with victims or mercury poisoning and a mercury-free dentist, appealed the DEP ruling.

The hearing is being held before Judge George Levine on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 11:30 a.m. in the court at 20 Franklin Square, New Britain.  It is expected to last until 3:30 pm.

Among those who may testify on Wednesday are individuals who suffered from mercury poisoning, scientists and dentists who never use mercury.

Plaintiffs in the case include Consumers for Dental Choice, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Leonard Kundel, a Stamford dentist; Dana Herbert, New Hartford, and Nory Oakes, Voluntown, who both suffered from mercury poisoning; and, Dr. Adam Breiner, a Trumbull naturopath and spokesman for the Coalition to Enforce Connecticut’s Zero Mercury Law.

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