FDA: Mercury fillings risky to some

June 5, 2008 5:34:54 PM PDT
Silver-colored dental fillings contain mercury that may cause health problems in pregnant women, fetuses, and children, according to the Food & Drug Administration.

The change comes as the result of a lawsuit brought by several consumer groups, including Moms Against Mercury.

In the past, the agency has said there is no scientific evidence the fillings pose any danger.

The FDA agreed to post updated information on the Q&A portion of its website, and to issue a more specific rule next year about the mercury in silver fillings. That will clarify the category of medical devices which the fillings fall into. They had never been classified, because they became available prior to the 1976 regulation setting up the categories. The agency has been going back to classify items, such as the fillings.

The FDA will issue that new rule in July 2009. It will set the guidelines for future labelling and regulation.

The agency does not recommend that people who currently have mercury fillings get them removed. The fillings contain half mercury, and half a combination of other metals.

The FDA website states: "Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner."

Mercury has been linked to brain and kidney damage at certain levels.

Some consumer groups contend the fillings can trigger a range of health problems such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. In 2006, an FDA advisory panel of outside experts concluded most people would not be harmed by fillings. However, the advisors called for more information.

In Philadelphia, mandatory efforts are underway to provide every dental patient with a brochure spelling out the risks from mercury fillings. The regulation was introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.