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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine May 2001


Mercury Amalgam Toxicity
Your next visit to the dentist may not be as innocent as you think

by Jim O'Brien

Page 1 of 3


Charles Williamson, M.D., co-director of the Toxic Studies Institute in Boca Raton, Florida and colleague, Jordan Davis, M.D., sat down with Life Extension magazine for an in-depth interview on the problem of mercury toxicity caused by dental fillings. Unlike past treatments of this subject, the two physicians spoke from a clinical, medical and scientific-not a dental-perspective.

The issue of mercury toxicity is a delicate one. For decades, most people have seen a visit to the dentist and subsequent cavity filling as a necessary and regular procedure. Side effects have not routinely been brought to light, so few have challenged the status quo. Evidence suggests, however, that such an apparently harmless procedure can have detrimental effects.

"I envision something along the lines of the backlash against tobacco, or drunk driving. Imagine a mercury amalgam protest group patterned after M.A.D.D.-Mothers Against Drunk Driving. When that organization came about, we saw results. That's what we desperately need now." - Charles Williamson, M.D.

Charles Williamson, M.D., co-director of the Toxic Studies Institute in Boca Raton, Florida, takes the matter very seriously. “Once mothers realize the fillings in their teeth damage the development of their babies’ brains while they’re in the womb, and once these women understand this damage can result in low IQ, learning and behavioral problems after birth, then we’ll see a public outcry against the use of mercury amalgam.

“I envision something along the lines of the backlash against tobacco, or drunk driving. Imagine a mercury amalgam protest group patterned after M.A.D.D.—Mothers Against Drunk Driving. When that organization came about, we saw results. That’s what we desperately need now. Perhaps we could call it M.A.M.A.—Mothers Against Mercury Amalgams.”

Dr. Williamson continues: “One of these days, there’s going to be a mammoth lawsuit about mercury fillings, similar to one that’s already been filed in Canada. It’s going to be bigger than what we’ve seen over tobacco. It’s going to hit people like a Mack truck that putting mercury amalgam in their teeth amounts to putting poison in their mouths. Once they realize that in no uncertain terms, they’re going to be angry. Part of our job is to educate, inform and disturb them so they’ll do something about it.”

“Mercury vapor is toxic, period,” Dr. Williamson goes on. “The fetus is especially vulnerable to that toxicity, which can cause brain damage. Specifically, mercury vapor can cause learning disabilities, autism and attention deficit disorder in unborn children. How will parents feel when they grasp that?”

Dr. Williamson and his colleague, Jordan Davis, M.D., say toxicity due to mercury amalgams is pandemic in our society—yet hardly anybody understands or appreciates that fact. As it turns out, mercury toxicity could provide a significant explanation for the explosion in learning and behavioral problems, autism and a whole host of other conditions since World War II—that 55-year period corresponds to the introduction and widespread use of mercury amalgam.

“It’s an enormous problem,” explains Dr. Davis.

“There are the medical consequences, the symptoms. Mercury is toxic and it harms people. We’ll get into the science behind that statement later—there’s a ton of evidence to substantiate it.”

Dr. Williamson says that the toxicity results in disorders primarily of the central nervous system; the head, neck and oral cavity; the gastrointestinal tract; the cardiovascular, renal and immune systems. “Exposure to mercury fillings results in a chronic toxicity, not acute poisoning,” he noted as an aside.

According to Dr. Williamson, the toxicity can manifest in irritability and anxiety, restlessness and emotional instability, loss of memory, inability to concentrate, mental confusion, depression, anti-social behavior, suicidal tendencies, muscle weakness and loss of coordination; bleeding gums and loosening of teeth; abdominal cramps, chronic diarrhea and/or constipation; abnormal heart rhythms and blood pressure (high or low) and unexplained elevations of cholesterol and triglycerides; repeated infections or cancer; and generalized complaints such as chronic headaches, allergies, dermatitis, cold and clammy skin or excessive perspiration, ringing in the ears, joint and muscle pain, unsteady gait, wheezing, heart palpitations, sinus congestion, allergies, loss of appetite or chronic obesity.

Dr. Davis explains that these symptoms have inexplicably been on the rise in the past 50 years, without any unifying explanation. But findings in the past 10 years indicate that mercury toxicity may be the common link between these seemingly unrelated symptoms.

There are specific treatment protocols to detoxify individuals and rid them of their mercury burden. Removing mercury fillings is an obvious step in that process, but surprisingly, it’s not the first one. It must be preceeded and followed by systemic detoxification. “We’ll detail the clinical treatment process later,” said Dr. Davis.

"The pervasive lack of public awareness about this very serious issue is an obstacle to progress. Even scientists and physicians tend to be relatively uninformed." - Jordan Davis, M.D.

The Mercury amalgam problem also works on the level of society as a public health problem—an unrecognized one, at that. “The pervasive lack of public awareness about this very serious issue is an obstacle to progress. Even scientists and physicians tend to be relatively uninformed,” says Dr. Davis.

“And there is even organized resistance on the part of dentists who use mercury amalgams. There has been for a very long time because they have a lot to lose. Dentists have pride, reputation, money and liability on the line. To admit that they have mistakenly been using a harmful substance to treat tooth decay for many years is a very difficult confession to make—and it’s fraught with extremely serious consequences.”

Dr. Williamson is most outspoken about the scientific and ethical issues of the mercury question. “When will dentists reach the point where they’ll say, ‘We’re not going to put poison in people’s mouths any longer?’”

The science is blatantly overwhelming that mercury amalgams leak toxic vapors. The irony is that dentists who place the compound in people’s mouths do not treat it like a toxic substance. In fact, leftover amalgam must be disposed of according to strict EPA guidelines.

“More importantly,” says Dr. Williamson, “there are studies from world renowned institutions that categorically show a cause-and-effect relationship between mercury and disease; this is particularly true of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Mercury is a cytotoxin—i.e. it poisons cells. Why wouldn’t it make you sick?”

Many researchers have reasoned as much over the years but they never had the scientific ammunition to overcome the arguments of organized dentistry in favor of mercury amalgam. But in 1991, Boyd Haley, Ph.D., a research toxicologist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington discovered some hard evidence that changed the mercury debate for good.

“It was almost accidental,” Dr. Haley told Life Extension. “I found out how damaging mercury amalgam is to the brain while studying tissue affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

“The basic research I conducted shows the difference between normal and diseased tissue. My own examination of Alzheimer’s affected cells told me there had to be a toxicant—a toxic substance that causes it. So I went searching for one. I identified two environmental sources that could be responsible: Cadmium, mainly found in cigarette smoke, and mercury.” Dr. Haley published his results. Then, the anti-amalgam lobby got in touch with him and told him that dentists were putting “stuff” in people’s mouths that leaks mercury.

“Frankly, I thought they were nuts,” says Dr. Haley. “No way would anybody, let alone responsible health care professionals, put people at serious risk by putting a toxic substance in their bodies, I reasoned.

“But I did an experiment. I put mercury amalgam in water. Then, I placed a sample of brain tissue in that water and checked on it over time. After a period of several weeks, I noticed that the exposure to mercury had suppressed the secretion from the brain tissue of tubulin—a major enzyme that performs critical functions in the brain. This finding was consistent both with mercury toxicity and with brain tissue as affected by Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr. Haley continues: “From that, I concluded that there’s clearly leakage from mercury amalgam—and that there’s a strong probability that people who have such fillings in their teeth are being exposed to chronic, low-dose mercury leakage.” According to Dr. Haley, having a mouthful of mercury from age 14 until age 65 and beyond would greatly increase risk in anyone susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

Needless to say, dentists do not welcome Dr. Haley’s views. “They insist mercury amalgam is safe, non-toxic and that it doesn’t leak. [But the fact of the matter is that] mercury is a neurotoxin. It leeches out of dental fillings, of that there is no doubt. Anybody can measure it. It heightens the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well as other neurolgical disorders. Dentists defend their use of mercury amalgam, but it’s unjustifiable. I feel like I’ve been arguing with the town drunk for eight or nine years. My conclusion is simple and direct: mercury is the toxicant behind Alzheimer’s disease. It may not be the only one, but mercury’s role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is clear.”

Dr. Williamson applauds Prof. Haley’s impeccable science and says his findings establish a straight cause-and-effect relationship. But from his perspective as a clinician, he believes the Alzheimer’s disease connection is only the tip of the iceberg.

“The list of problems mercury vapor can cause is endless. There is an extremely high incidence of depression, memory loss and behavioral problems including violent outbursts that can be explained by exposure to mercury vapor,” Dr. Williamson told Life Extension.

"The list of problems mercury vapor can cause is endless. - Charles Williamson, M.D.

He says that mercury toxicity also produces systemic effects, from foul breath and ringing in the ears to general fatigue or unexplained numbness or burning sensations that may be related. Most disturbingly, Dr. Williamson points out, is the evidence linking mercury vapor exposure to the development of chronic kidney disease and autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, lupus erythematosus (LE), multiple sclerosis (MS), scleroderma, amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and hypothyroidism.

“The real point is this: mercury is toxic. And that statement is now beyond debate.”

According to Dr. Williamson, The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is no safe level of mercury in humans that does not kills cells and harm body processes. Florida’s environmental regulatory agency notes that one mercury filling from one tooth thrown into a lake is enough to contaminate that lake for fishing and swimming. Dentists have consistently denied that mercury amalgam is dangerous, but, says Dr. Williamson, “that position is simply wrong. We won’t spend a lot of time analyzing why dentists have maintained this mistaken position, but mistaken it is.

“The American Dental Association, which for so long has promoted the use of mercury amalgams, has recently divested itself of any culpability with regard to mercury. In a case before the Superior Court of the State of California, lawyers for The ADA and others stated: ‘The ADA owes no legal duty of care to protect the public from allegedly dangerous products used by dentists. The ADA did not manufacture, design, supply or install the mercury-containing amalgams. The ADA does not control those who do. The ADA’s only alleged involvement in the product was to provide information regarding its use. Dissemination of information relating to the practice of dentistry does not create a duty of care to protect the public from potential injury.’ ”

Dr. Williamson goes on to make an observation: “Now, an obvious question arises: if mercury were safe, as the dental profession has insisted for years, why would the American Dental Association feel obligated to claim nobody can hold it responsible for the harm it has caused? Their statement is just a way of saying, ‘the stuff’s dangerous, but don’t blame us if it hurts you.’”

Continued on Page 2 of 3


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