The following is a story from BBC
News on Tuesday 30th April 2002:
Dentists may be at risk of
developing kidney and memory problems because of their exposure to mercury, a
Mercury is used (safely???) in
teeth fillings but long-term exposure can cause serious health problems.
A study by researchers at the
University of Glasgow suggests that dentists may be at particular risk.
Dr Ewan Macdonald and colleagues
found that dentists had higher levels of mercury in their bodies, compared with
a sample group of academics.
They also found that dentists were
significantly more likely to report kidney disorders and memory disturbances
than the academic staff.
The authors stopped short of
making a direct link. But writing in the journal Occupational and Environmental
Medicine, they said: "As mercury exposure at higher levels is known to cause
similar health effects an association cannot be ruled out."
Researchers obtained urine, hair
and nail samples from 180 dentists in the west of Scotland and 180 academics
from the University of Glasgow. Levels of mercury were four times higher on
average among dentists compared with academics.
The levels were found to be
strongly associated with the number of hours worked, the number of fillings
handled and the number of fillings they had themselves. While the mercury
concentrations were high, just one of the dentists had levels in excess of
health and safety recommendations.
Nevertheless, dentists were 10 times more likely to have
sought medical treatment for kidney disorders and three times more likely to
have experienced fertility problems. There were also more than twice as likely
to have suffered from memory disturbances.
The authors called for more
research to be carried out and for dental surgeries to be monitored to ensure
staff are not exposed to high mercury concentrations.
They wrote: "Further health
surveillance of all members of dental teams, including dental nurses and dental
hygienists, should be carried out to determine the nature of this association
and the preventive health measures which may be required."
In an accompanying editorial, Dr
Dianna Echeverria, from Battelle Center for Public Health Research and
Evaluation in Seattle, said more research was needed. She said the study had
failed to compare like with like and would have been better if it had included
dentists who were not exposed to mercury in their work. She said: "A more
uniform dental population needs to be evaluated."
A spokesman for the British Dental
Association said: "The BDA is interested to see the results of this research,
albeit on the basis of a small sample of dentists."
It suggested dentists could limit
their exposure to mercury by wearing gloves, ensuring good ventilation in rooms,
take steps to minimise the risk of spills and that instruments and equipment are
The BDA also recommends
regular testing of clinical staff.
Harley Street, mercury-free dentist,
Dr. Hesham El-Essawy became extremely ill himself due to mercury amalgam,
although at first he didn't make the connection between his illness and the
fillings he had been working with for years.
During a tutorial of dental materials in dental school in 1965, Hesham saw
mercury outside of a thermometer for the first time. The tutorial was part of
the students introduction to Amalgam. His tutor told the students they must
never touch the mercury with their bare hands as it was very poisonous. Hesham
asked the tutor why, if it was so poisonous, were they using it in people's
teeth. He laughed at him and the rest of the class, as he told him that once
the mercury is mixed with the amalgam alloy it is locked in and a new compound
is formed. Of course, like thousands of other dentists before, and after him,
Hesham believed the tutor. He thought...he's the tutor, I'm the student, he
must be right.
When Hesham finally became a dentist he used amalgam, as all dentists must on
the NHS, and those private dentists who wish to keep the cost down for the
patients, as it was hard wearing, easy to use, and cheap. But, when a new
white filling was introduced on the market in the early 1970s, Hesham began to
use it, as it looked far better than the silvery/black amalgam fillings, but,
as he was working for some time in the NHS, he had to use amalgam for all the
patients, except for those who wished to have the white fillings and so pay
One day, after suffering from toothache, Hesham asked a colleague to take a
look at his teeth. He looked, got his needle out, stuck it in him and started
drilling. Afterwards, whilst walking to his car Hesham felt that he'd had all
the stuffing knocked out of him. He thought it must be the anaesthetic which
was making him feel like that. Little did he know what was in store for him.
Some years later, Hesham began to have problems with his digestive system,
abdominal cramps, severe diarrhoea. He saw many doctors, who would examine him
and then tell him there was nothing wrong. No diagnosis, no treatment.
Eighteen months later, Hesham decided to take matters into his own hands and
find out for himself what was wrong with him. He found out that it was wheat
that was causing his stomach problems as well as cow's milk and its products
to a lesser extent. When he avoided these he had no stomach problems of that
kind. But, his health started to deteriorate. He began to suffer frequent
colds, flu, sore throat, headaches, disturbed sleep, mood swings together with
loss of energy. He felt as if his brain was foggy and couldn't think properly.
But he still failed to make the connection with mercury.
By the 80's, Hesham threw away his amalgam and used only white fillings and he
started to look again at the question of mercury. Could it be true that
amalgam is a health hazard? He read about it, and was completely shocked at
what he read. Amalgam is not at all the stable compound we once thought it
was. It loses its mercury all the time, in many forms, and where would it all
go but mostly down into his body. If mercury is the highly toxic substance
they say it is, then, despite all the denials, both he and many of his
patients were being slowly poisoned.
He then thought about asbestos...lead, thalidomide...all other things which
were thought to be safe at one point but now would never be used and are
banned. There were similar denials then as there were about mercury...yet
mercury was still being used.
Thankfully, Hesham had found the connection and he was, at last, able to get
himself back to full health and vowed never to use amalgam again.
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