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Monday, 23 November, 1998, 17:35 GMT
Thousands fear mercury poisoning from fillings
Dentist
There is a big question mark over the safety of mercury fillings
Thousands of people are concerned that mercury dental fillings are to blame for their poor health, BBC East Health Correspondent Gill Higgins reports.

Thousands of people have called a helpline after hearing the story of a woman from Northampton who claimed mercury was making her ill.

Pam Clayton was suffering from fatigue and dizzy spells for years, but says cleansing her body of mercury changed her life.

For years, she couldn't go anywhere because she frequently collapsed, suffering from asthma-like symptoms and chronic fatigue.

But all this changed when she had her mercury fillings removed and started to clear the metal from her body.

Ms Clayton said: "l can do the ironing again, if people ask me out I can go, I can drive the car whenever I want to and I've got my life back again.

Since setting up a mercury helpline, Mrs Clayton has received thousands of calls and letters.

"I get a couple of hundred letters a day, my mum says I've woken the world up," she said.

"I never realised there were so many ill people out there."

Requests for filling removal are becoming more and more common, and some dentists are keen to oblige, running mercury-free practices.

Highly toxic

Dr Tom Nyerges, a dentist from Luton, said: "It is now scientifically proven that small amounts of mercury are released from amalgam fillings every time you chew or have a hot drink.

"It is very small amounts and nobody is really sure what effect it has, but mercury is a highly toxic substance, we know that for sure.

"I don't feel comfortable with that. I would not want highly toxic substances leaking into my mouth, no matter how small amounts they are, and I don't feel comfortable putting it into anyone else's teeth."

Researchers in Northampton have discovered that crematorium workers have twice the level of normal mercury contamination in their bodies.

Scientist Sue Maloney said crematoria should be constantly monitored. Simple measures could be taken to reduce the threat of mercury poisoning, she said.

"You can get a small box containing selenium which you can place on top of a coffin. It has been shown to take up to 85% of the admissions," she said.

Total ban

Asthma
Mercury has been linked to asthma
Some countries are taking action. Austria and Sweden already have a total ban, and in Germany mercury fillings carry a health warning against their use in children and pregnant women.

The government says mercury is not a health risk, although it does advise against dental treatment in pregnant women.

Scientific views on the health hazards of mercury may differ, but the public is taking matters into its own hands.

It is good news for Cambridgeshire firm Fulcrum Healthcare which produces a product said to remove mercury from the body.

Fulcrum was supplying Humet directly to dentists, but now feels they should sell directly to the public through pharmacies and health shops.

A company spokesman said: "We've done clinical trials, and tested it in hospitals in cases of metal poisoining and it's shown the product is effective and safe."

The British Dental Association said it was unnecessary to remove amalgam fillings, citing the findings of an expert government committee which concluded they posed no toxic risk.

A spokesman said: "Filling materials must be safe. Amalgam is still the best performing material for certain types of fillings, and most dentists will continue to use it in the absence of medical or toxicololgical advice to discontinue its use.

"No dentist would promote use of amalgam in the face of evidence of harm."

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 ON THIS STORY
Gail Higgins reports
Gail Higgins on the mercury menace
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