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Environmental Impacts of Dental Mercury Focus of U.S. House Oversight Hearing img-share-ph

November 12, 2007 - Denise Esteves

Washington, D.C. - November 12, 2007 - The U.S. House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 14, to discuss FDA's responsibility to evaluate the harmful environmental impacts of mercury dental fillings and to question why FDA has not finalized a rule proposed in 2002 to classify mercury tooth fillings under the Medical Device regulations.

Dental mercury releases from clinics are the largest contributor of mercury to municipal waste water treatment plants in the U.S. and are a significant contributor of mercury emissions to the environment and the fish Americans eat. According to US EPA, 34 tons of mercury are used in mercury-based dental fillings each year to fill tooth cavities, and the largest current single use of mercury today is in Americans' mouths -- over 1,000 tons.

Testimony by one witness, Michael Bender, Director of the Mercury Policy Project, will show that dental mercury air emissions may be more than five times higher than recent EPA estimates.

"The dental industry should embrace a 'clean hands' policy and stop its mercury use from getting onto American's dinner plates," said Michael Bender, Director of the Mercury Policy Project. "As health professionals, dentists have a moral obligation to protect the public from mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin."

The Subcommittee hearing will take place at 2 pm EST on Nov. 14, in Room 2154 of the Rayburn Building.

Witnesses for the November 14 hearing include:
Panel I

  • TBD, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Dr. Norris Alderson, Director, Office of Science and Health Coordination, Food and Drug Administration

Panel II

  • Mr. Ray Clark, Senior Partner, The Clark Group, LLC
  • Mr. Bruce Terris, Partner, Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP
  • Mr. C. Mark Smith, Co-Chair, Mercury Task Force, New England Governor's Conference
  • Mr. Michael Bender, Executive Director, Mercury Policy Project
  • Mr. Rod Mackert, Dentist and Faculty Member, Medical College of
  • Georgia

The role of mercury tooth fillings, often called amalgams, in dentistry has become an issue of increasing concern for lawmakers recently for both environmental and health reasons. According to a recent article in FDA Week, "Subcommittee members Diane Watson (D-CA) and Dan Burton (R-IN) have pushed for hearings on dental amalgams, Burton's spokesperson says. The lawmakers reintroduced legislation May 1 that would phase out such amalgams."

More information: http://oversight.house.gov/investigations.asp?ID=121

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