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The FDA now states that mercury from amalgam dental fillings may be toxic to children and developing fetuses, in response to a lawsuit filed by consumer groups and individuals concerned about mercury exposure.

Amalgam fillings are silver-colored and are made of nearly equal parts of liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, tin, copper, zinc and other metals. Mercury concentration in dental amalgams is generally about 50% by weight, while the silver concentration ranges from 20-30%.

Until now, the FDA has long taken the stance that amalgam dental fillings were safe, despite an overwhelming body of research and patient groups indicating that they are neurotoxic and associated with various neurological conditions.

This new ruling by the FDA highlights concern for high risk populations, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children and immune comprised individuals. However, there is good reason for concern for anyone with mercury amalgam fillings.

Scientific research has demonstrated that mercury, even in small amounts, can damage the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal gland, blood cells and suppress the body’s immune system. There is no known toxic threshold for mercury (any amount can have negative effects) and many toxicologists have stated that no amount of exposure to mercury is totally harmless.

The mercury in amalgam fillings is continually vaporized and released into the body. This process is stimulated and can be increased as much as 15-fold by chewing, brushing or drinking hot liquids. The mercury released from amalgams is stored in the body and brain and accumulates over time. Additional mercury exposures from the diet and environment, contribute to the overall mercury body burden.

There are safe and effective ways to test mercury levels in the body, including a blood test or hair analysis; however, the gold standard is a urine collection that is provoked by a chelating agent such as DMPS or EDTA. A chelating agent effectively binds the mercury, allowing it to be excreted in the urine. This testing can be ordered by a physician with experience in environmental medicine.

Once a test is performed to evaluate mercury status, amalgams can be safely removed. It is very important to work with a dentist who will remove the amalgams safely. During the removal process, mercury vapors can be readily released into the body, and dentists can take steps to minimize this additional mercury exposure.

Once fillings are removed, it is imperative that one follow-up with mercury chelation (the process of removing residual mercury from the body). This ensures that both the source of the mercury exposure is removed as well as the accumulation of mercury from the life of the filling. Chelation can be performed using oral or intravenous chelating agents.

It is not recommended that mercury fillings be removed during pregnancy. Mercury effectively crosses the placenta; therefore, the neurotoxic effects of the mercury released during the removal process can have harmful effects on the developing fetus. It is highly recommended that a woman remove her mercury fillings, followed by mercury chelation, 6 months to 1 year before pregnancy. This will ensure that the womb and the breastmilk are mercury-free and provide an optimal environment for the healthy development of the fetus.

Diagnostic testing and chelation therapy for mercury and other heavy metals, as well as preconception care for a healthy and successful pregnancy, are available at the Institute for Progressive Medicine in Irvine, California. Please call reception 949-600-5100 for more information.

Julie M. Kahn ND, LAc

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