Dentists Targeted for Mercury Pollution

| June 17, 2002

Dentists Targeted for Mercury Pollution

No one dumps more toxic metal into the nation's wastewater treatment plants than U.S. dentists, and activists are demanding that they start cleaning up after themselves.

'In a time that everyone from hospitals to coal-burning power plants are taking steps to reduce emissions of mercury, Health Care Without Harm, along with other environmental groups, is calling on dentists to follow suit,' writes Beth Daley in theBoston Globe.

While the government has been working to clean up the nation's watershed the last 20 years, dentists have done nothing to decrease the amount of mercury they flush down the drain. Dentists use aproximately 44 tons of mercury every year to make fillings. These fillings are considered non-toxic when in the patient's mouth, but critics say they become toxic when allowed to decay in the environment--a point the American Dental Association disputes. ''It's a very stable material,'' said Dan Meyer, director of science for the American Dental Association. ''We have an ethical and moral obligation to do good, and we would never do anything to cause harm to the public.''

Regardless of the known effects, a recent report says that dentists could capture and recycle the mercury for about $50 per month. Or they could stop using it altogether, like Boston dentist G. Robert Evans. 'It's going to accumulate in the environment if we don't keep it out,' he tells Daley. 'So I keep it out.'
--Sara V. Buckwitz
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