Why have Norway and Sweden banned Mercury Amalgam Fillings?
Norway has become the first nation to legislate a sweeping ban on the use of amalgam fillings in dental work. Previous laws forbid the use of mercury-containing fillings in more vulnerable segments of the population, such as pregnant women and children, but the new law is the first to forbid the use of the toxic metal without exemption. Mercury has also been banned from all other products produced, imported, exported, sold, and used in the country. In a prepared statement, Norway's Minister of Environment and Development, Erik Solheim stated that:
"Mercury is among the most dangerous environmental toxins. Satisfactory alternatives to mercury in products are available, and it is therefore fitting to introduce a ban."
Sweden has followed suit with a ban on mercury fillings effective April 1st, 2008, and other countries are now contemplating similar moves. Amalgam fillings, which unbeknownst to many are composed primarily of mercury, raise the level of mercury circulating in the blood. Mercury is listed as one of the most toxic substances on earth and many who are sensitive to the substance have reported improvements in health upon removal of the toxic fillings. The Norwegian and Swedish bans come at a time when alternative composite fillings have become strong enough to replace amalgams under practically any circumstance.
The issue, however, is as much environmental as it is salutary. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, medical waste incinerators emit 70,000 pounds of mercury into the biosphere each year, making medical use of the metal one of the leading contributors to mercury pollution. So the question has to be asked, why has US policy been so slow to catch up with common sense? "These bans clearly indicate that amalgam is no longer needed. There are viable non-mercury filling substitutes that are used everyday in the US," said Michael Bender of the US Mercury Policy Project.
"By eliminating amalgam use, which is 50% mercury, we can reduce mercury pollution much more efficiently than end-of-the-pipeline solutions." It should come as no surprise that many figures in the US are taking the new emerging consensus kicking and screaming. "Banning dental amalgam' is a political issue that will not only have no impact on total worldwide mercury pollution, but also removes a viable treatment option for dentists and their patients," argues Derek Jones in an editorial published in the Journal of Dental Research. Bold steps are being taken, but there is still much work to be done before a similar ban will be seen in the US.