After years of denial, the Food and Drug Administration is now acknowledging that mercury used in dental fillings could pose a health risk to fetuses and young children. Mercury amalgams are commonly used to fill cavities in people of all ages.
The FDA issued a new warning this week after lawsuits by consumer groups, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Warning: "Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses."
The danger of mercury has long been known, and government controls on smokestack pollution are designed to limit the fallout of mercury in the environment, so as to lessen contamination of fish. Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the most common way for people to be exposed, and pregnant women, nursing mothers and children have been warned in recent years to be wary of how much and which fish they eat.
Now, those concerns will spread to the dentist's chair.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. In its toxic form it can interrupt the normal development of the brain, causing permanent damage, like lowered IQ, and other developmental problems.
The FDA has promised to issue new guidelines for the safe use of mercury in dental fillings by the summer of 2009.
The news comes on top of a report earlier this year about Chinese-made dental fillings being laced with lead, another potent neurotoxin. Click here for the American Dental Association's recommended 5 questions to ask before getting dental work. (The ADA believes mercury in fillings poses no health risk, but it is concerned about lead in dental fixtures.)
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