While our understanding of the health threat posed by mercury exposure increases with every year of new research, recent studies show that the body burden of mercury in the human population is steadily rising over time, along with the major disorders associated with mercury poisoning.
A recent study at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) involving more than 6,000 American women aged 18 to 49 detected mercury in the blood of 30 percent of test subjects in 2005–2006 compared to only 2 percent in 1999–2000.
Worse, average concentrations of mercury in those subjects with detectable amounts in the blood rose 24 percent. More people have detectable amounts of mercury and they have greater amounts of this poison in their blood.1
Finally, data analysis showed an association between both the increased detection numbers and the higher concentrations of mercury with biomarkers for the main targets of mercury deposition and disease: the liver, immune system, and pituitary.2
Merury is the most toxic metal on Earth, and yet every day dentists use it in amalgam fillings for cavities, allowing the vapors to be released and absorbed into patients’ mouths. If you see silver-colored fillings in your molars, you’re being exposed to mercury all day every day, because mercury constantly evaporates off all amalgam filings at room temperature.3 Every time you chew or drink hot liquids, the friction and heat causes the fillings to release even more of this poisonous, tasteless, invisible gas. Once inhaled, the vapors easily pass from the lungs into the bloodstream where they diffuse to tissues throughout your body.
So what exactly does this element do once it has permeated your body? Mercury is an extremely potent neurotoxin, and even tiny amounts can cause widespread damage to the kidneys, endocrine system, and particularly the nervous system. The metal can destroy virtually every cell in the body, which explains the diversity of symptoms and diseases attributed to mercury poisoning. Some symptoms that can result from excessive exposure to the metal include memory loss, learning disorders, chronic paresthesia (a sensation of stinging or numbness of the skin), ataxia (lack of coordination of muscle movements), convulsions, tremors, coordination problems, hearing and vision difficulty, loss of smell and taste, and hallucinations.4,5,6 In contrast, chronic mercury exposure may not become clinically apparent for quite some time. Even in cases of heavy mercury poisoning, it can take several months for symptoms to appear. The cause for this long latency period is still unknown.7
Mercury poisoning can also contribute to diseases with their own severe symptoms.
Diseases Related to Mercury Poisoning:8
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Immune System Disorders
The effects of mercury are even more dramatic in young children, whose bodies are much smaller and more vulnerable at critical stages of development. A mother could unintentionally harm her child with the mercury vapors she inhales from her own fillings. Mercury in the body of a pregnant woman can pass through the placenta into the blood of her unborn fetus; even after birth the mother can transfer mercury to her baby through breastfeeding.9 The most alarming of mercury’s possible effects on unborn fetuses include genetic mutations leading to birth defects and learning disabilities.10
The toxicity of mercury is not questioned. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) claims that amalgam fillings are perfectly safe and effective because the mercury is mixed with other metals, such as silver and tin, so the material becomes a biologically inactive substance that will do no harm to human beings. This is simply not the case. Dentists treat fillings as hazardous waste before they are put in your mouth and when they are removed. Why would the substance be any safer when it is inside of your mouth, exposed to wear and tear daily? The ADA misleads the public because if they were to openly admit the dangers of amalgam fillings, the lawsuits would be overwhelming. It is easier to wait until these fillings are slowly phased out in favor of alternatives. In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally admitted that amalgam fillings may be toxic to children and developing fetuses. This is a necessary first step in eliminating the use of mercury in all dental work.
Your exposure to mercury is proportional to the number of amalgam fillings in your teeth. The average adult American has ten amalgam fillings, which means approximately 30 micrograms of elemental mercury are released in their mouths each day—more than ten times the cautionary limit for mercury exposure from food, issued by the U.S. FDA.11 Approximately 80 percent of inhaled mercury vapor is retained in the body.12 The effects of mercury toxicity are cumulative; the longer you’ve had amalgam fillings, the more mercury has been deposited in your body and the more you will be affected. Even if you have only one silver-colored filling, it still poses a danger. As Dr. Lars Friberg, MD/Ph.D., a former head of toxicology of the World Health Organization describes, “There is no safe level of mercury.”13
Keep in mind that simple daily activities can increase your exposure to the amalgam fillings in your teeth. You increase your exposure to vapors the more often you grind your teeth, chew gum, drink hot beverages, drink acidic beverages such as juice or soda, smoke, or even breathe through your mouth. The total amount of mercury in your body probably isn’t entirely derived from your own fillings; you likely have higher amounts if your mother had fillings when you were conceived or when she nursed you. Mercury levels of your body are also affected by the kind of fish you eat, because several species have especially high mercury content, such as tuna, shark, swordfish, trout, bass, and pike. All of these factors will help assess your overall risk for mercury toxicity; if you feel that you are high risk, you should take steps to reduce your mercury exposure.
1 Dan R. Laks. “Assessment of chronic mercury exposure within the U.S. population, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2006. Biometals. 2009 August 21 PMID: 19697139
3 Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton, Toxic Overload (New York, NY: Avery, 2005). Page 18.
4 “Is Mercury Toxicity an Epidemic?” by Joseph Pizzorno, ND. Integrative Medicine. Vol. 8, No. 1. Feb/Mar 2009.
5 Surviving the Toxic Crisis by William R. Kellas and Andrea S. Dworkin.
6 “Metal Toxicity in the Central Nervous System” by Tomas W. Clarkson. Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 75, p. 59-64, 1987.
7 Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton, Toxic Overload (New York, NY: Avery, 2005). Page 13.
8 Dr. Myron Wentz, A Mouth Full of Poison: The Truth About Mercury Amalgam Fillings, (Rosarito Beach, Baja California: Medicis, S.C., 2006).
12 Thomas W. Clarkson ,“The Three Modern Faces of Mercury.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 110, Supplement 1 (February 2002). Page 18.
13 Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton, Toxic Overload (New York, NY: Avery, 2005). Page 18.