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FDA finally issues mercury amalgam warning

In an astounding about-face to its previous stance, the FDA issued a warning that mercury fillings may adversely affect pregnant women, children and other susceptible individuals, and should be avoided by these groups.

As noted in the FDA's statement:

Today, the FDA is issuing updated recommendations concerning dental amalgam and potential risks to certain high-risk individuals that may be associated with these mercury-containing fillings ... The FDA has found that certain groups may be at greater risk for potential harmful health effects of mercury vapor released from the device [amalgam]. As a result, the agency is recommending certain high-risk groups avoid getting dental amalgam whenever possible and appropriate.

Groups identified by the FDA as being at increased risk for harmful effects from dental mercury fillings include:

* Pregnant women and their developing fetuses

* Women who are planning to become pregnant

* Nursing women and their newborns and infants

* Children, especially those younger than 6

* People with pre-existing neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease

* People with impaired kidney function

* People with known heightened sensitivity (allergy) to mercury or other components of dental amalgam

FDA Admits Amalgam Dangers

After years of pressure from Consumers for Dental Choice and its allies, the FDA finally admits the unvarnished truth about amalgam, noting that "Dental amalgam is a mixture of mercury and a powdered alloy made up of silver, tin and copper" that "releases small amounts of mercury vapor over time."

The agency also admits there are "uncertainties" and risks associated with this mercury vapor release, especially for the high-risk groups listed. In particular, there is "the potential for mercury in dental amalgam to convert to other mercury compounds in the body," and mercury could potentially accumulate in body fluids and tissues, resulting in "unintended health outcomes."

"These uncertainties in the most vulnerable patients are why today we are recommending people who may be at high risk for adverse health effects of mercury exposure use non-mercury alternatives to dental amalgam, such as composite resins and glass ionomer cement fillings," the FDA states.

While the FDA downplays the importance of its changed recommendation by stressing that the benefits of dental amalgam likely "outweigh their risks for most patients," this update is nothing short of monumental, and opens the door, finally, for the elimination of dental mercury for all patients in the U.S., as has been done in many other countries already.

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