May 27, 2010

Congressional Hearing Targets Dentists as Major Source of Mercury Pollution

Mercury Policy Project testimony charges American Dental Assn. with misleading Congress, EPA and public on dental mercury impacts

Testimony by a mercury watchdog group charges that the American Dental Assn. (ADA) has provided misleading information that dentists are voluntarily controlling their mercury pollution and that the toxic metal doesn't get taken up in fish that people eat. The Mercury Policy Project (MPP) provided evidence to the contrary during a hearing of the U.S. House Government Oversight Domestic Policy Subcommittee.

"Dental mercury ends up in the fish we eat, although ADA denies it," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "Dentists are the largest polluter of mercury to wastewater. Yet ADA ignores the latest science from the U.S. Navy and others, and pretends that dental mercury doesn't end up in fish."

Bender said the following statement on ADA's website is "misinformation": "Dental amalgam has little effect on the environment...Even this amount is not in the form found in fish, which is the greatest concern."

The MPP pointed out that the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) states on its website that dental mercury pollution does contaminate fish: "When amalgam enters the water, microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish."

MPP also charges that ADA has intentionally misled EPA into believing that voluntary pollution prevention initiatives were sufficient to reduce dental mercury pollution.

Bender said ADA messaging is contradictory when it comes to promoting pollution prevention.

"The need for dentists to install amalgam separators was well-established years ago," Bender said. "Yet, working with its state chapters, ADA has blocked any further mandates for separators since 2008, pretending that voluntary programs work."