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Sat 1 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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EU backs mercury amalgam use

In a contentious report, a European Union scientific committee has concluded that amalgam dental fillings, containing mercury, pose no health risks to dental patients.

In a contentious report, a European Union scientific committee has concluded that amalgam dental fillings, containing mercury, pose no health risks to dental patients.

In a statement, the panel said it had investigated claims of a link between amalgams and a variety of systemic conditions, particularly neurological and psychological or psychiatric effects, and found no evidence to support the claim.

"No risks of adverse systemic effects exist and the current use of dental amalgam does not pose a risk of systemic disease," the team wrote, noting that no studies had shown that dental personnel suffer classical signs of mercury intoxication.

The controversial debate over amalgam use in fillings has split dentists and patient groups. Many dentists and governments have supported the line taken by the EU report, stating that amalgam is safer and more durable than alternatives.

Patient groups, however, have argued that amalgam is unsafe, citing the known effects of mercury poisoning.

"The facts do not add up - mercury is the third most toxic poison in the world and we are still putting it in people's mouths," said Becky Dutton, a spokesperson for patient group Mercury Madness.

Fifty percent of an amalgam filling is created from mercury. While high doses of the metal can be fatal, comparatively low doses have been linked to
instances of adverse neuro-development in patients.

The results of mercury poisoning, say anti-mercury campaigners, range from mild tremors to neurological damage and Alzheimer's symptoms.

Clinical guidelines typically advise against the use of amalgam for children and pregnant women, but patient organisations believe these restrictions should be extended to include the rest of the population.

The report, which was prepared by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), is now open to public consultation. Sweden, Denmark and Norway are expected to formally decide on the possibility of a ban in the coming weeks.

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