SACRAMENTO, CA -- Calling the state Dental Board "a decaying and rotting agency," several consumer, environmental, and dental organizations have called for the State Legislature to shut it down.
"When teeth decay and rot, they must be pulled out. Now itís time to extract the Dental Board because all itís been doing is protecting organized dentistry, not consumers," said Anita Vazquez Tibau of Consumers for Dental Choice, a consumer group who petitioned the Board two years ago to issue an accurate "Fact Sheet" about the risks of Mercury amalgam fillings. "It's time every consumer in California is told the 'M' word -- that their amalgam fillings are half Mercury."
Consumer groups are particularly incensed because of continuing deception over the use of the word "silver" to describe amalgam fillings. Actually, amalgamís major component is Mercury, an extremely dangerous material forbidden in other health care uses and listed under Proposition 65 as a reproductive toxin. A separate state law, passed in 1992 and authored by then-State Senator Diane Watson, required the Dental Board to write a Fact Sheet listing the "risks" of dental materials. The Board has never written an acceptable Fact Sheet.
The Legislature is taking up emergency legislation by Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) that would de-fund the Dental Board on July 1 and transfer its duties to the state Department of Consumer Affairs. Senator Figueroa acted after the Board cancelled a June 14 public meeting called to vote on adopting the warning language mandated by the Watson law, claiming it could not muster a quorum. The Board president, Dr. Kit Neacy of Covina, issued that decision on June 12 -- the day several consumer groups sued the American and California Dental Associations (ADA and CDA) for deceptive practices involving Mercury.
A hearing will be held in the Assembly Health Committee today (Tuesday, June 26) at 1:30 p.m. in Room 4202 to consider Figueroaís bill.
"No ordinary California citizen could continue to violate a state law for nine years, because itís three strikes and youíre out," said Charles G. Brown, the former West Virginia state Attorney General who is the lead attorney in the fight against Mercury fillings. "For the Dental Board, nine strikes is all they should get, and now theyíre out."
Dr. Lois Hill Hale read a statement at the press conference from Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-L.A.). Earlier this month, Watson wrote the Dental Board saying urgent action was needed to advise consumers about the risks of Mercury amalgam, particularly because most consumers are not even told that "silver fillings" are really "Mercury fillings."
Cori Traub of Clean Water Action, who is spearheading efforts to keep Mercury out of California waters, noted that Mercury from dental offices is a "huge and life-threatening" problem for the environment. "If consumers knew that each filling had so much Mercury, and that it not only can threaten human health but that much of it definitely ends up in the water, I think they would choose alternatives." Alternative fillings include resin, gold, and porcelain, according to Dental Board records.
"The dental board is toothless when it comes to protecting consumers," said Teri Olle of the California Public Interest Research Group (Cal-PIRG). "Consumers will be much better off if dental regulation is done by the Department of Consumer Affairs, as called for in the Figueroa bill."
Dr. Andy Landerman, a Santa Rosa dentist representing the American Academy of Biological Dentistry, noted that many dental groups oppose Mercury in the mouth. "Each amalgam filling includes a colossal amount of Mercury by medical standards [750 mg]. No health group in America supports putting grams and grams of Mercury into the human body, except the ADA. And the ADA won't tell consumers about the yearly fees it receives from amalgam manufacturers while it tells people Mercury is safe."
Landerman called for an immediate stop to giving Mercury fillings to women and children. Other countries have already acted, he said. "Only the power of the ADA keeps our government from interceding to help children, born and not-yet-born."
Shawn Khorrami, a Los Angeles lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Mercury lawsuit against the ADA and CDA, added, "Consumers had hoped that the Dental Board would stand up to the powerful ADA on behalf of California children. Instead, the Board has joined the ADA in trying to stop consumers from learning that Mercury vapors from amalgam go to the brain, a special risk to children and the unborn, whose brains are still developing."
Other organizations supporting the de-funding of the Dental Board include California Health Care Without Harm and the Mercury Policy Project.