Mercury Fillings and Health

New evidence unearthed by Dr Jack Levenson, the dentist who has led the fight against amalgam fillings in the UK, shows that dental fillings could be behind the burgeoning of many 20th century conditions.

It is generally accepted that when a disease such as influenza reaches 400 per 100,000, or 0.4 per cent of the population, it is then considered to be of epidemic proportions. In January 1997, the British Dental Association (BDA) issued a fact file on mercury, stating: “About 3 per cent of the population are estimated to suffer from mercury sensitivity.”

Three per cent of the UK population alone would represent some 1.75 million people, of whom about one million would have mercury amalgam fillings.

Despite these potentially huge casualties, no action is taken on mercury toxicity and, unlike BSE and AIDS, it has attracted relatively little media attention. No public money has been allocated for research.

Nevertheless, current research suggests that mercury vapour from fillings may be one of the predominant underlying causes of a broad spectrum of conditions, ranging from gum disease, migraine, headaches, poor memory, depression, anxiety, mental lethargy, chronic fatigue, growth, allergies such as eczema and asthma, and sensitivity reactions to food and inhalants, to rheumatism, arthritis, backache, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

Some research has focused on particular problems among women exposed to mercury. One study showed that such women experienced disturbances in the menstrual cycle such as excessive blood flow, irregular periods, premenstrual tension (PMS) and painful menstruation (Pediatr Akush Ginekol, 1971; 33: 56 8). Another showed a higher than expected incidence of spontaneous abortion and premature labour (cordon A, “Pregnancy in Female Dentists A Mercury Hazard”, presented at the International Conference of Mercury Hazards in Dental Practice, Glasgow, 1981) in women exposed to mercury compared with controls. Their rate of failure of ovulation was also nearly double that of the controls (Akush Ginekol, 1974; 13: 20).

Tests were carried out at the University of Heidelberg on women who had hormonal irregularities and amalgam fillings and who had difficulty in conceiving. At the same time, blood samples were investigated for levels of pesticide contamination. The women tested showed higher levels of urine mercury when given a test that measures the amount of mercury excreted through a chelating agent.

The most common problem by far was mercury contamination, which correlated with the number of amalgam fillings. After removing the fillings, nutritional support and treatment of other environmental contamination burdens, 70 per cent of the women became pregnant without the aid of hormonal therapy (Gynakologie, 1992; 14: 593 602). Further tests carried out at the University of Heidelberg involved 132 women with amalgam fillings who had abnormal hair growth or hair loss. Nearly half 49 per cent of these women showed significantly elevated mercury levels. After removal of their fillings, the symptoms disappeared in 68 per cent of cases (Klin Labor, 1992; 38: 469 76).

But it is not only women who suffer infertility problems caused by mercury. It has been estimated that about 50 per cent of infertility problems are associated with defective male sperm motility (Pharmacol Toxicol, 1988; 69: 440 4). Research has directly pointed to mercury.

Workers who are occupationally exposed to mercury vapour have been found to have a significant reduction in fertility rate (Am J Industr Med, 1985; 7: 171 86).

Heart attacks were practically unknown in the nineteenth century a time when the general diet was high in fat and dairy products.

There is no full explanation for the substantial increase in heart disease, but the suspect factors are mainly diet, stress, smoking and general lifestyle.

Increasing evidence points to amalgam fillings as one major contributory factor.

A series of studies carried out at Washington University (Proc Soc Exper Biol Med, 1965; 120: 805 8; Proc Soc Exper Biol Med, 1967; 124: 485 90; Am J Physiol, 1970; 219: 755 61; Am J Physiol, 1971; 220: 808 11) demonstrated that mercury causes hypertension by contracting smooth muscle in arterial walls. Inorganic mercury caused blood vessel constriction and subsequent hypertension within minutes of exposure organic mercury did not. The work was subsequently confirmed by researchers at Harvard Medical School (Am J Physiol, 1975; 229: 8 12).

In 1974, the National Institute of Health, part of the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, published a 333 page account of research in the Soviet Union on the effects of chronic exposure to mercury and its compounds (Cardiotoxic Effects of Mercury, DHEW (NIH) Publication No 74 473, 1974, pp 109 34, 199 210). They reported that mercury affected the function of the heart in a variety of ways, including the ability of heart muscle to contract, and its electrical conductivity and regulation of cardiac activity.

The Soviet researchers also found that mercury produced functional changes in cardiac activity and in heart muscle, and that it accumulated in heart muscle and valves. The damage was evident from ECG changes and through histological studies. They found that heart function was influenced by the effect of mercury on hormones from the pituitary gland.

In 1983, work carried out at the medical school at Lodz in Poland (Thromb Res, 1983; 30: 579 85) found that various mercury compounds in low concentrations accelerated blood clotting.

In 1990, Siblerud (SRI Total Environ, 1990; 99: 23 35) compared subjects with and without amalgam. They found that those with amalgam had significantly higher blood pressure, lower heart rate and lower haemoglobin counts. They also had a greater incidence of chest pains, tachycardia, anaemia and fatigue, and became tired easily and awoke feeling tired. The researchers concluded that: “The data suggest that inorganic mercury poisoning from dental amalgam does affect the cardiovascular system”.

In 1984, David Eggleston, Associate Professor at the Department of Restorative Dentistry, published a preliminary report which demonstrated the ability of amalgam and nickel to affect the total percentages of T cells (J Prost Dent, 1984; 51: 617 23) those cells which help killer cells to recognise foreign invaders. Two cases involving dental amalgam, and one involving nickel, were presented. The results were similar in all cases. In one of Eggleston’s 21 year old patients who had six amalgam fillings, 47 per cent of lymphocytes were T lymphocytes with amalgam fillings. After removal of these fillings, 73 per cent of lymphocytes were T lymphocytes an increase of 55.3 per cent.

When four amalgam fillings were again placed in the patient, the T lymphocyte count dropped to 55 per cent a decrease of 24.7 per cent. When the patient’s amalgam fillings were replaced with gold, the T lymphocyte count rose from to 72 per cent an increase of 30.9 per cent.

The most recent research (Int J Occup Med Tox, 1995; 4) involving 34 patients with CNS disorders indicated intoxication from dental amalgam. Tests showed pathological findings in 88 per cent of these patients, of whom 60 per cent showed an immune reaction to mercuric chloride. These findings support the view that chronic low level exposure to mercury can compromise or weaken the im mune system and adversely affect the defence mechanisms of the body.

Mercury may contribute to chronic fatigue conditions and, in some cases, play a predominant role. Chronic fatigue is one of the main presenting symptoms of mercury toxicity, and practitioners expect the condition to improve when fillings are removed. Patients who are severely ill, and often bedridden and test positive to mercury find that symptoms improve to a varying degree when amalgam fillings are removed, but are not cured unless mercury is the predominant factor.

In one instance, a 42 year old GP had been housebound for four years with severe chronic fatigue syndrome (ME). She could only leave home for short journeys using a wheelchair, and had great difficulty in climbing stairs. She had 13 amalgam fillings and tested positive to mercury on a lymphocyte response test. Besides ME symptoms, she also complained of other symptoms such as burning mouth, blurred vision, nausea, constant lowgrade diarrhoea, muscle pain, depression, tension, irritability, poor memory, low blood pressure, asthma, sinus pain, aching joints and allergies to a range of chemicals.

The patient had all her amalgam fillings removed and, three months later, reported that her physical and mental energy had improved and that her nausea was completely cleared. She was also enjoying her food for the first time in years. The day after her final fillings were removed, her husband gave her some soup. She was amazed that it was the same soup her husband had given her the day before, which she had found tasteless. She also reported that her muddle headedness and lack of concentration had improved, and that she felt much more relaxed. Two years later, the patient confirmed that her improvement had continued.

Whether mercury was the initial cause of her chronic fatigue is a matter of conjecture. What this case illustrates is that even though, in some cases, mercury may not be the predominant causative factor, it can exacerbate an existing condition.

A survey of 356 patients who had not recently been exposed to antibiotics showed a high prevalence of mercuryresistant bacteria. They were also significantly more likely to concurrently have resistance to two or more antibiotics (Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 1988; 32: 1801 6).

These findings prompted a three university collaborative investigation in primates (Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 1993; 37:825 34). This showed that a large proportion of common oral and intestinal bacteria became resistant to mercury two weeks after receiving amalgam fillings. Nearly all the mercury resistant bacteria were resistant to one or more antibiotics such as tetracycline, ampicillin, streptomycin and erythromycin. As in the human study, the monkeys had not had recent exposure to antibiotics, demonstrating that the bacteria had become antibiotic resistant due to exposure to mercury from dental amalgam.

In both studies, the proportion of mercury and antibiotic resistant bacteria declined markedly during the two months after amalgam removal.

These studies confirm earlier work carried out in Japan (Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 1997; 11: 999 1003; Appl Environ Microbiol, 1977; 33: 975 6; Nature, 1977; 266: 165 7) which showed that the bacterial resistance to antibiotics and mercury can be transferred to other bacteria by strands of DNA. The mercury resistant bacteria constantly recirculate the mercury as vapour exacerbating the increase of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Thus, the situation cannot improve until the source of the mercury is removed.

In a recent paper (Sci Prog, 1997; 80: 103 6), a team from the Eastman Dental Institute pointed out: “It must be remembered that oral streptococci are a major cause of infective endocarditis with a high mortality”. The general systemic consequences of the inability of antibiotics to contain or eliminate these resistant bacteria, commonly called ‘superbugs’, is an escalating and serious problem. The role of mercury in their growth should not be ignored.

Research has shown that mercury from dental amalgam fillings:

1. increases mercury resistant bacteria, resulting in the constant recycling of mercury in the body;
2. increases antibiotic resistance in bacteria the superbugs with obviously more serious consequences;
3. that bacteria are capable, via DNA strands, of transferring their resistance to other neighbouring bacteria; and
4. mercury in the body and antibiotic-resistant bacteria markedly decline after removal of mercury amalgam fillings.

Dr Jack Levenson Dr Levenson is author of “Menace in the Mouth”

If you have a health condition, have undergone conventional medical investigation to exclude life threatening and other diseases, and have not responded to treatment, you should have an experienced practitioner:

* Take a full medical and dental history
* Check your dental status (fillings, crowns, implants, dentures even amalgam tattoos or posts and pins
* Carry out a test to measure each metallic filling for electrical activity, which will indicate the amount of mercury vapour released from fillings and the possible systemic effects of having a ‘battery’ in the mouth
* Consider a provocation urine test. This uses the known mercury chelator 2,3 dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) to leech mercury out of your system to be excreted in the urine. Urine is taken before and after swallowing this chelator, and compared for mercury content. This test is an indicator of mercury body burden and requires careful interpretation by an experienced practitioner
* Have a blood test the metal specific memory T cell test (MSMT) developed at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London (020 8746 8000) which determines your immunological reactions to dental and associated metals, and measures lymphocyte response to other heavy metals.

Other laboratory tests include hair analysis and a sweat test for dental metals.

Other tests to give you an indication of amalgam toxicity include electroacupuncture evaluation (where an EAV practitioner assesses problems in the meridians which run across individual teeth), kinesiology, faeces measurement, a complete blood count and various body biochemistry tests.

Before you have your fillings removed

* Get advice on an individualised programme of vitamin/ mineral supplementation and detoxification programme, and start it two months before your amalgams are removed
* Consume a fresh, organic wholefood diet. Avoid foods which are salty, sour or eaten at a high temperature, and snacks between meals all of which increase mercury vapour
* Take antioxidants and free radical scanvengers to help bind and excrete mercury, including a good multivitamin supplement and extra selenium (50 200 micrograms), vitamin C powder, seaweed and homoeopathic dental amalgam, a tried and tested way to remove mercury from the system
* Constipation, if present, must be treated, as mercury may be retained in the faeces and recirculated.
* Take charcoal half an hour prior to treatment to mop up any mercury vapour which has evaded other precautionary procedures and been swallowed
* Get tested for your reaction to composite (white) fillings by sucking a sample of the proposed restorative material for two hours, repeating the procedure two days later, then monitoring and reporting reactions
* Find a dentist experienced in removing amalgam fillings and discuss the protocol beforehand. He/she should be familiar with removing them in a predetermined sequence depending on ammeter or voltmeter measurements.

After treatment
* Embark on an extensive detox programme for a number of months with supplements, detox measures such as saunas and steam, and lymphatic drainage
* Consider taking a chelator such as DMSA to flush mercury out of your system.

The pituitary is the master gland of the body and exerts an influence on other glands such as the thyroid, adrenals and gonads.

Tissues which normally contain only a small fraction of the total mercury found in the human body may contain higher concentrations of mercury than the largest organs the kidneys and brain. This was shown in the pituitary and thyroid glands of mercury miners who had retired some years before their death. Their glands contained very high concentrations of mercury greater than the levels found in their kidneys, lungs and brains (Nature, 1975; 25: 238 9).

The reason for these high concentrations is not difficult to understand as there is a direct lymphatic pathway from the gingiva of the lower jaw to the thyroid, while the pituitary and thyroid are both highly vascularised and have no protective barriers against oxidised mercury.

The kidney, the repository of waste in the body, is a target organ for mercury. To test the effect of mercury on kidney function, 12 amalgam fillings were placed in the occlusal surfaces of six adult female sheep. In addition, 12 glass ionomer fillings were placed in two other sheep as controls (Am J Physiol, 1990; 258: 939 45).

Kidney function, determined by glomerular filtration rate (insulin clearance), was reduced by 50 per cent within 30 days. Urine potassium levels increased a little while sodium levels showed a greater increase. There was a reduction in albumin a water soluble protein found in bloodexcreted in the urine. Controls were unaffected.
Low sodium levels in the blood stimulate the kidneys to release renin, an enzyme that causes increased blood pressure. When sodium and potassium are not present in their correct ratios, muscle weakness, fatigue and heart irregularities are among the symptoms observed.

Albumin is important for maintaining plasma volume. Changes in albumin ratio adversely affect nutrient distribution to cells. Human studies (Am J Physiol, 1990; 261: 1010 4) have demonstrated an increase in urinary albumin 12 months after patients with amalgam fillings had them removedsuggesting that the kidneys are able to recover from the effects of mercury amalgam.

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