August 30, 2001
International Fluoride Information Network Bulletin #347
August 31, 2001
Maine Governor Angus King today signed the most advanced bill in the United States requiring dentists to inform their patients that amalgam dental fillings contain a large percentage of the toxic element mercury, which can be harmful to the wearer's health. In his preliminary remarks before signing the bill, Gov. King noted that Maine has probably taken more action to get mercury out of the air and water than any other state in the union. "And yet we all carry it around in our mouths," he remarked.
Senate President Michael Michaud spearheaded the bill and Representatives Joanne Twomey and Steven Stanley, all of whom were present, spoke at the signing. Consumer advocates Pam Anderson and Dr. Tom Anderson, a mercury-free dentist from Houlton, ME, who led grassroots support for the bill, participated in the ceremony as well. Maine Senate President Michaud cited the courage of the many individuals who testified on behalf of the bill, especially the dentists who came forward to endorse it despite the opposition of the American Dental Association. "We hope that the U.S. will take Maine's lead and move forward with legislation at the national level," he said.
The bill mandates that every dentist's office will feature a poster and a brochure informing patients about the presence of mercury in amalgam fillings and about its negative health effects. Scientific research has shown that dental amalgam is the chief source of mercury in the human body. For that reason Rep. Twomey described the bill as a major step forward for women of childbearing age and for children, who receive their first exposure to mercury in the womb and from their mother's breast milk.
Mercury has been implicated in neurological disorders of children such as autism and ADD/ADHD, and in fertility problems in women.
"We are delighted that this bill has been signed," said Rep. Stanley. "It is a major step forward to protect the health of Maine citizens."
Pam Anderson added that the group hopes Maine's next step would be to ban the use of dental amalgam in all women of childbearing age and in children.
"The public is being deceived by the terminology used for these fillings," said Charles Brown in his remarks. "The ADA calls them "silver" fillings, but they are really mercury fillings. If people knew the principal ingredient is mercury they would not want these fillings in their teeth."
Gov. King compared the current use of mercury in dental fillings with the 1950's use in shoe stores of powerful x-ray machines called fluoroscopes, which exposed hundreds of thousands of adults and children to high doses of toxic x-rays. "Every child who went into the shoe store to buy new shoes would put his feet into the fluoroscope so the bones could be seen," King recalled. "People who worked in the store were exposed to the radiation all day; children played games around the machine. Now we realize it was a terrible thing to do, but then it seemed perfectly normal. Some day we will wonder how we could ever have put such a toxic substance into the human mouth."
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