From blog satire to FDA reality?

I hate to dwell on environmental violence, but right now I feel as if I've been kicked in the teeth!

If we don't want it in our fish, we don't wwant it in our thermometers, what is it doing in our heads?

-- Sara Moore-Hines, identified as a "Pennsylvania counselor" in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's seeing a thought I expressed as satire being taken seriously as a political (not to be confused with scientific!) argument, just weeks after I wrote it in a post called "Putting my mouth where my mercury is." Why, I even obliged with this picture showing off my toxic, mercury-emitting mouth:


Scary, no? Geez, and what if my toothbrushes are more contaminated than the coal the environmentalists want to stop the power plants from burning? The toothbrushes could have more parts per billion! Can anyone prove they don't? (And every time I so much as spit in the sink, there go billionths and billionths more!)

I've complained many times about reality imitating satire, but when scientific satire becomes scientific reality (yes, I'm afraid this nonsense has to be called science, because it's at the FDA), I don't know what to do.

Should I worry for the future, perhaps?

Anyway, the mercury in dental fillings scare is such hogwash that as I pointed out, it's been debunked for years at Quackwatch, and very few scientists or dentists have taken it seriously. (Until now.)

Nevertheless, quackery and superstition are persistent enough that another series of official FDA studies has been done, and these reports were about to be issued in final. Until, that is, the "consumer activists" stepped in. This led to a panel of "outside" health advisors being asked to vote in this climate of hysteria (how democratic of them!), and predictably, they've all but nixed the report:

A joint panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers did not declare the so-called "silver fillings" unsafe. But in a 13-7 vote Thursday, the advisers said the federal report didn't objectively and clearly present the current state of knowledge about the fillings.

In a second 13-7 vote, the panelists said the report's conclusions about safety weren't reasonable, given the quantity and quality of information currently available.

The FDA had asked the panel of outside advisers to weigh the report, a review of 34 recent research studies.

The report had found "no significant new information" that would change the FDA's earlier determination that mercury-based fillings don't harm patients, except in rare cases where they have allergic reactions.

So, the consumer activists won. Based on what scientific evidence? From what I can see, none.

But as I've opined many times, activism works. The counselor whose reality echoed my satire was not alone:

The votes were a "start" to sparking greater dialogue and awareness of the issue, said consumer activist Sara Moore-Hines, 57.

"If we don't want it in our fish, we don't want it in our thermometers, what is it doing in our heads?" said Moore-Hines, a Pennsylvania counselor.

She and other activists had pressed the panel to recommend the FDA ban mercury fillings.

"Do the right, decent, honorable and God-loving thing: There needs to be an immediate embargo on mercury fillings for everyone, or at least pregnant women and children, because they are our future," said Michael Burke, who blamed mercury fillings for the early onset Alzheimer's disease diagnosed in his wife, Phyllis, in 2004.

Dr. Michael Fleming, a Durham, N.C., dentist and the consumer representative on the panel, asked the FDA to consider restricting the use of amalgam in children younger than 6 and in pregnant women. The activists - dozens attended the two-day meeting - met his proposal with applause.

Who is Michael Fleming and why does he get to be a "consumer representative"? Does he represent me and my mercury-filled mouth? How do I know he isn't just creating future hassles for me? I mean, as it stands now they don't want me to be cremated in some states. How can I be sure he won't declare me a walking, talking, biohazard, to be "saved" only by either having my teeth pulled, or by submitting to some gruesome procedure calculated to further damage my mouth and my self esteem?

Is "consumer activist" code language of some sort? Am I not a consumer? Aren't most people also "consumers"? Did I or "we" ask for these activists to work tirelessly on "our" behalf?

Anyway, the "consumer activists" in this case are driven by a huge mercury hysteria movement which believes that the tiniest smidgen of mercury (measured in parts per billion) will cause you to shrivel up and die. Never mind the fact that mercury, like all elements, comes from the ground. Amazingly, man did not invent the stuff; he only found uses for it. Man "emits" about half the mercury said to be emitted into "the environment"; the other half is emitted naturally. Being an element, mercury is a zero-sum game like gold. There's only so much of the stuff. And while it is poisonous, the parts per billion stuff just rankles me, as there's no evidence that it causes ill health in the minute quantities the activists claim.

But there are plenty of people who assert that mercury nearly killed them, and whose testimony at scientific hearings is taken seriously:

Virginia Pritchett remembers getting her teeth filled when she was 7 years old.

Now, decades later, she cannot forget the health problems she suffered for years until the symptoms were linked to the mercury in her fillings.

"I was 43 when I was correctly diagnosed," Pritchett said. "I was having severe neurological problems and going into seizures."

In 1999, Pritchett had the five mercury fillings removed and replaced with composite materials.

"If those were not taken out, I would be dead now," said Pritchett, who lives in Mineral Wells.

Pritchett, 49, plans to describe her years of gastrointestinal problems, concentration loss and immune system damage at a Food and Drug Administration hearing next week in Gaithersburg, Md. The hearing is to review the health hazards of mercury leaking from dental fillings. The meetings, Wednesday and Thursday, will mark the first time in 13 years that the government has held a public hearing to address the safety of mercury fillings. Pritchett said she hopes that her testimony will make a difference.

"My goal is, I want to see these things totally outlawed," she said.

She wants them outlawed, but where's the scientific evidence that it was the mercury in her fillings that did these things to her? Why didn't that happen to the countless millions of Americans who have the same kind of fillings? Why didn't it happen to me?

All we're given is the bare assertion that she "has no doubt":

Pritchett said she has no doubt that the mercury in her fillings harmed her health. Her problems started during the late 70s, when she was 23 years old. Her health deteriorated over the years and she saw dozens of doctors before one finally linked her symptoms to her fillings, she said. Since she had the fillings removed, her battered immune system has slowly improved, she said.

"I'm a lot better, but I still have problems;" she said. "It's been a real nightmare."

"Dozens of doctors" missed a clear case of mercury poisoning? Something doesn't sound right about this.

Yet Ms. Pritchett is presented as one of the leading witnesseses. I'd like to know more about her case, because I'd like to know what happened, but I'm having trouble finding the details.

How do we know that the mercury did this to her? Reading reports like this, I'm even more skeptical:

It is the fillings she said are to blame for a two-decade health slide that included health problems ranging from stomachaches in college to seizures in her forties.

"I was almost killed as a result of these fillings," she said.

Pritchett's will testify in Washington D.C. next week to talk about her problems she said she has endured.

"Who, with any sense, would think that mercury belongs in a person's mouth in any form?" she said. "It defies common sense."

Her allergies are so bad, she said she can't risk taking public transportation.

She can't take public transportation? Why? Are the buses and trains so contaminated with mercury that they're hazardous to passengers? Or is it the presence of toxic passengers like me, who recklessly climb onto buses and trains without wearing safety respirators over our heads, and whose breath leaches quantities of mercury vapor no doubt measurable in parts per trillion?

Might there be something else we're not being told? She did mention allergies, so I'll be charitable and make the generous assumption that a mercury allergy is in fact her problem. How would that be logically any different than an allergy to peanut butter? Would the FDA hold hearings to ban peanut butter because a few people were sensitive?

Returning to the Pennsylvania counselor whose remarks to the FDA imitated my satire, Dr. Moore-Hines has described herself as a "survivor" of "amalgam poisoning":

“A lot of the poor get sick from these fillings because insurance tends to not cover this at all or much less than the composite fillings,” Sara Moore-Hines, a survivor of amalgam mercury poisoning, explained.

She noticed a difference since she changed over to the composites.

“We want the public to know alternative white composite fillings are much safer yet more expensive,” she said. “Since I got my composite fillings my mouth doesn’t smell and I can’t taste the metal anymore, I’m not sick all the time too.”

Wow! Does that mean I'm a survivor too? According to that site, "175,000 U.S. dentists place 100 million amalgam fillings in patients’ teeth each year."

Do the math. That means damn near half the country consists of amalgam survivors. And what about those who didn't survive?

Folks, this is serious.

We may be talking about more people than died in World War II!

I do not know whether there is any scientific evidence to back Dr. Moore-Hines's claims, but from what I can discern, she's a psychologist and not a specialist in mercury poisoning. I also find myself wondering whether her claims that dental mercury harmed her are supported by any scientific evidence. Reading this account by her, it occurs to me that as in the case of Ms. Pritchett, there might be other causes for her problems:

"In June 1996 (after major dental mercury amalgam replacement was done) I fell ill with chronic fatigue. For the last 8 years I have been slowly healing (after my amalgam fillings were removed). Today, I am feeling much better and am grateful for my near renewed health. During the most difficult period of my illness, my body became extremely sensitive to environmental stresses, including my heavy traditional glasses. I also had to stop taking 2-3 dance classes per week. My glasses heavy on my nose created red, sore indentations and seemed like a thick visual wall between my self as a therapist and my clients. I sometimes became distracted in a therapy session, rubbing my sore nose bridge. A year ago my husband came home with a pair of "Silhouette Titan" J glasses. Amazed at their light, airy and almost invisible but stylish and flexible appearance, I purchased a pair for more discomfort no more walls between my clients and me, they are a magical eyewear companion that one day, when I am fully well again - will dance with me in freedom and joy."

Sara Moore-Hines
Drexel Hill, PA

The "amalgam survivors" are organized, and have websites like this.

Can they can save me too? Now that I think about it, I'm sometimes irritable. And forgetful. On some days, I don't feel as much like writing long essays in my blog as I do on other days. Maybe I should look into this poisoning thing. Let's see...

What are the symptoms? That last web site, provides a list of symptoms chronic Mercury Toxicity:

# irritability
# anxiety/nervousness, often with difficulty in breathing
# restlessness
# exaggerated response to stimulation
# fearfulness
# emotional instability
-lack of self control
-fits of anger, with violent, irrational behavior
# loss of self confidence
# indecision
# shyness or timidity, being easily embarrassed
# loss of memory
# inability to concentrate
# lethargy/drowsiness
# insomnia
# mental depression, despondency
# withdrawal
# suicidal tendencies
# manic depression

# numbness and tingling of hands, feet, fingers, toes, or lips
# muscle weakness progressing to paralysis
# ataxia
# tremors/trembling of hands, feet, lips, eyelids or tongue
# incoordination
# myoneural transmission failure resembling Myasthenia Gravis

Why, from time to time I've had many of those symptoms! BINGO! Might it be all the mercury I've been carrying around in my mouth all these years! Imagine! If loss of self confidence, indecision, shyness or timidity, being easily embarrassed, loss of memory, inability to concentrate, lethargy/drowsiness and insomnia are all caused by mercury, many psychologists are either wasting their time with these patients or else they're committing malpractice!

As to the "myoneural transmission failure resembling Myasthenia Gravis," the link goes to another website, which reveals the wondrous results which obtain when the mercury is removed:

What worked for Ward had been, in the end, complete removal of her mercury amalgam fillings, some of which she had had since she was 7, others which had been put in at age 47. She had been prone to infections throughout her teens and, after having dental work done in her 20s, she noticed she was unable to sleep and was losing her hair. By 1985, her hectic life, working as the branch administrator at the Cobbs Creek Free Library, or hiking, playing the piano and jogging in her free time, was starting to take a downward slide. She noticed she was having equilibrium problems, which she knew might signal the start of MS. Again, her trips to various doctors yielded no answers, and it was only a consultation with a nutritionist that first threw up the putative diagnosis of adverse reaction to amalgam. Having found herself exhausted, housebound and virtually incapable of moving about, Ward undertook a regimen of vitamins and supplements aimed at strengthening her system and helping to detox. Then, referred to a mercury-free dentist in Bala Cynwyd, she was able to have her amalgams removed. It took time, since the necessary drilling-out is considered to be a flashpoint for vapor exposure, so a mouthful such as Ward's 16 fillings were removed by quadrant (a quarter-mouth at a time). The results were undeniably remarkable: Within a couple of visits, her continuous vision impairment receded, allowing her to take up reading again. Even more extraordinary, she reports experiencing her vision field return to normal in the car on the way home from the last appointment, allowing her to see the horizon properly. A practical person, not seemingly given to exaggeration, she puts it quite simply: "Getting rid of a substance that is known to be toxic allowed me to heal."

After detox, she found her hands could reach the intervals in a piano concerto once again.

Koss was initially drawn to DAMS as an outlet for her zeal. She subscribed to its mailing list, produced every three to four months, and used its database of mercury-free practitioners to find someone who could remove her amalgams safely. Yet her efforts were taken in a different direction, after a chance suggestion that she get in touch with Anita Tibau, based in California and working as West Coast representative of the anti-amalgam movement's lobbying arm, Consumers for Dental Choice. They met; shortly thereafter, Koss began working for the nonprofit as director of development, organizing fundraising and outreach as Tibau's East Coast counterpart.

Charles G. Brown, former attorney general of West Virginia and now a D.C.-based lawyer, has represented Consumers for Dental Choice since 1996.

(Charles G. Brown and Boyd Haley are two of the leading activists whose earlier demands forced the FDA to put its report on hold. And Dr. Michael Aschner (one of FDA-appointed appointees who voted against the report) is linked and quoted in a variety of activist web sites like this, and has been working against thimerosol in vaccines, and delivered a report at a 1998 meeting of the activist IAOMT. )

Anyway, hell hath no wrath like the newly converted. And by God, I'm feeling like getting my conversion today!

Did you know mercury in dental fillings even causes Alzheimer's? I didn't but I hadn't read this:

Besides autism, Alzheimer's has been the focus of research for its connection to mercury toxicity. Boyd Haley, chair of the University of Kentucky's department of chemistry and one of the movement's scientific big hitters, has pioneered research into the biomarkers for this neurological condition -- chemical changes in the body that might give some clue as to the cause of the disease. These biomarkers -- two proteins, tubulin and creatine kinase -- were found to be suppressed in sufferers of Alzheimer's: The lower the tubulin uptake, the more likely the formation of "tangles" of protein in the brain, a classic indicator of the disease. "We found there was only one heavy metal which repeatedly was causing those proteins to be suppressed," explains Haley. "It was mercury."
Pay no attention to skeptics like this who claim to have debunked Dr. Haley! Who do they think they are to dare dispute distinguished scientific activists?

This all makes me wonder about something, though. I'm thinking I might not have the time and patience (to say nothing of money) to sit still for the long amalgam removal procedures. Wouldn't it be easier to just have my teeth pulled? Can't I be saved that way? If Alzheimer's can be prevented, it strikes me as a small price to pay. I wonder what else the government is hiding. Might they be hiding the fact that there are no toothless Alzheimer's patients?

(Nah; it wouldn't matter, because they'd be poisoned anyway from the toxic fish.)

Fighting scientific satire really is an uphill battle, and it might be even worse than pulling teeth. Because, no matter how much mercury we extract from our nation's teeth or how we do it, the mercury is everywhere.

Even in trees! No seriously. There is so much mercury in trees that forest fires are a serious mercury hazard, literally pumping mercury into the air!

As wildfires grow in number and strength worldwide, they are unleashing mercury that has polluted wetlands in the north since at least the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

These infernos in the north of North America are releasing mercury at levels up to 15 times greater than fires elsewhere in the continent. The key, researchers note, is that climate change is making northern wetlands more vulnerable to burning.

Mercury can damage the brain and lead to birth defects. Normally, atmospheric circulation carries mercury spewed from industry northward, where it settles down, for instance, in cold wet soils in Alaska and Canada.

"Peat lands have done us a real service by locking up mercury before and during the entire Industrial Age," researcher Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing, told LiveScience.

And that was Fox News, not some crackpot environment site.

Attempting satire in the context of mercury in the environment is as exhausting as it is dangerous. What happens is that because of my mercury-related irritability, restlessness, and exaggerated response to stimulation, even basic words start looking very strange to me.

Words like "environment."

Does anyone know what the environment is? How does mercury "enter" such an ill-defined place? Sometimes, I start thinking near-heretical thoughts, about how the mercury was already there, and then I get like really really confused.

Me and my big mercury mouth. What right did I ever have to enter the environment? How can I save the environment? Sometimes it seems to me that the environment is nearly everywhere I go!

And I'm a walking, talking, deadly neurotoxin -- unable to distinguish satire from reality!

Perhaps I should be more ashamed.

(Appropriate shame might take the teeth out of my satire.)

MORE PROOF: While I don't think I need to supply any more proof that my mouth is a source of toxic shame, I did bring up toothbrushes.

In the interest of fuller disclosure, I thought I should supply evidence of my deadly brush with toxic shame, exactly as it appeared this morning:


Still, I worry.

Confession is good for the soul, but is it wise to admit to crimes against the environment in a blog post?

UPDATE: Anyone who thinks my brush with toxic shame is either clownishness or insanity on my part should by all means read this:

In my laboratory we have done this on several aged amalgams made from one conventional, widely used amalgam company. The results indicated that about 4.5 micrograms Hg/cm2/ day was released without abrasion, but this increased to about 47 micrograms/cm2/day with two 30 second brushings with a toothbrush. Therefore, the question remains, who is protecting the American public from adverse exposures to mercury? It appears as if those who should be doing this job are failing to do so. Having an unbiased research group repeat the study above on all ADA approved amalgam materials would be very informative and I strongly recommend that this be done even though doing this is was not supported by the ADA spokesperson at a past Congressional hearing on this issue.


if amalgam is gently rubbed with a toothbrush the amount of mercury emitted, as measured by a commercial mercury vapor sniffer, increases dramatically. As I have cited herein, mercury emissions from amalgams increase substantially when hot liquids are introduced or when the individual is chewing.10


Every day, a brush with death!

posted by Eric on 09.08.06 at 08:14 AM


Hmm. I'm no expert on mercury, but I am a chemistry student, so I know a little bit about it. A little research on Wikipedia confirmed what I thought: "...the human body is incapable of removing mercury or other heavy metals from the brain." Actually, I don't think it has a system for removing them from your body at all; it mostly just tries to tie them up in other compounds and stick them someplace, where they hopefully won't do too much damage. You have to use chemicals with high affinity for metals to actually remove the stuff (chelators, which people have latched onto for things like chelation therapy -- of dubious value, unless you know you're suffering from severe metal overload and toxicity). You certainly aren't likely to see improvements on your way home from the dentist's office.

On another note, I find it interesting that the group trying to get mercury fillings banned calls itself "Consumers for Dental Choice".

CFM   ·  September 8, 2006 10:16 AM

There is a phrase of which environmental paranoids should take note: "The dose makes the poison."

Anything is toxic if you get high enough levels. Water, properly drunk (instead of inhaled) can be toxic if too much is swallowed. Apple seeds are poisonous— if you swallow a semi load. Those things that we call poisons are those that are toxic in low doses... and even then, subcritical doses will often have no effect.

I have plenty of mercury fllings in my head, and have had no effects. My husband— who I mentioned in the previous mercury post— had effects of a syndrome of which mercury fillings were only a small part, and when he stopped the acidic caffeine abuse (aka drinking nothing— literally nothing— but soda and coffee for two years), the symptoms stopped and the damage started getting repaired... which doesn't argue that mercury damage is irreparable. In fact, it argues the reverse... and that perhaps you shouldn't limit your liquid intake to soda.

B. Durbin   ·  September 8, 2006 8:54 PM

Tut, tut it all you want, but I had suffered from the symptoms of mercury amalgam fillings most of my adult life, being a cheapskate and not having them replaced them with composites when I first recognized the problem back in the seventies.

That was my life until a few years ago, when, while driving one evening and listening to my favorite radio station's regular slot for paid-promotion science reporting programs, I noticed this scientist had discovered and put into pill form a natural substance which combats all the effects of what I call Mercury Amalgam Disease, though he, himself, does not even realize it.

I am living proof of having relapsed to healthiness and to top it off my dandruff is gone, too. That the latter symptom, by the way, is a problem leading MAD scientists have understated, if not wholly overlooked, and makes their investigations look like a sham.

That's unfortunate, but suffering from MADness is still a heart wrenching reality and if it isn't mercury amalgams that bring it on, it's something else, like your loved-one running away.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some basket weaving to finish.

Dusty   ·  September 9, 2006 12:07 PM

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