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As part of some research I was doing for my degree lately I had to address the issue of mercury fillings and their potential to cause ill-health. Having no fillings myself this is not a subject I have looked at in any real detail before, but I know it may be a major concern to many of you.
The literature I came across was certainly conflicting. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a news release acknowledging study findings from the 1970s and 80s demonstrating that amalgam fillings are continuously giving off mercury vapour...which of course the unlucky individual with the fillings then inhales. Until this time it was thought that exposure only occured during the initial installation of the fillings and that after that the mercury was stable.
The news release raises the possibility that the mercury vapour given off by fillings could cause chronic mercury poisoning and some of the symptoms known to be associated with acute mercury poisoning including "irritability, memory loss, tremors, poor physical coordination, insomnia, kidney failure and anorexia (loss of appetite)".
However, the release goes on to report on two independent studies involving children with amalgam fillings. The studies followed the children for up to 7 years and found no differences in health between children with amalgam fillings and those without - including no differences in average IQ. The mercury in their body fluids was also found to be within "background" levels that would be expoected to be found in the general population.
Other studies I came across were not quite so convinced of the safety of amalgam fillings. Despite the studies reported by the NIH it seems to be clear from other research that people who have such fillings do indeed have higher amounts of mercury in their bodies. One study found that when treated with a chelating agent (a substance that binds to metals and removes them from the body), people with amalgam fillings excreted three times as much mercury in their urine than those who did not. Unfortunately this study did provide information on the relationship between body burden of mercury and symptoms which the patients associated with their mercury fillings.
Another interesting study I came across found that in a sample of people all with amalgam fillings, the amount of mercury absorbed into the body varied significantly from person to person. It is also thought that individual sensitivity to the toxic effects of mercury can also vary greatly.
Particularly for people who are already chronically ill then, it would seem wise to avoid having mercury amalgam fillings fitted. The question of what to do if you already have the fillings and feel they are making you ill is altogether more difficult to answer. It is often pointed out that you are more likely to absorb more mercury during the extraction process than if the fillings were left in place. On the other hand, their are many holistic dentists who advocate removing the fillings to improve patients health.
There is no doubt that this is a confusing area but one whith huge implications for health.
If you have had experience with merucryu amalgam fillings making you ill or if you have got well after having them removed please let us know in the comments section below.