Product Liability

Panel recommends FDA re-examine ruling on safety of mercury fillings

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel has recommended that the agency re-examine all relevant evidence that mercury-containing dental fillings, known as dental amalgams, are safe and do not put people at risk for mercury poisoning. In 2009, the FDA ruled the fillings were safe, but the panel recommended that the agency look at “not just certain studies, but all scientifically sound studies.”

During a two-day meeting with the panel, consumer and dental groups argued that the FDA had based its ruling on flawed and insufficient data. They claim there is compelling evidence that the fillings may be toxic to some individuals. The panel also heard from dentists and one dental student who spoke in support of the silver fillings and the FDA’s ruling that deemed them safe.

The panel agreed that the fillings are safe for most people but that there was not enough evidence to rule out the possibility that a small but significant number of people might be at risk for mercury poisoning from their fillings. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause brain and kidney damage, memory and hearing loss, tremors, irritability, mood swings, insomnia and headaches .

The panel noted that there was limited data on the risks of mercury fillings for pregnant women and their unborn children, and children under the age of 6. One panelist did say that there is no place for mercury in children. “The bottom line is, do no harm,” said Suresh Kotgal, of the Mayo Clinic. “We have to start with that and take it from there.”