Bay Area News Conference Follows Congressional Committee in Attacking Dental Board for "Stonewalling on Mercury Fillings"

Press Releases: 01.27.04

CONTACT: Noah Griffin, 415.381-6964 or 415.756-3933 (cell), or Charles Brown 202.246-7642
January 27, 2004

Stung yesterday by a Congressional committee in Los Angeles for stonewalling on the issue of mercury fillings, the Dental Board of California comes under further attack today in San Francisco. African-American and Latino leaders are holding a news conference and calling for “an immediate release to patients of the brochure on so-called silver fillings, so pregnant women and children may be warned about the risks of mercury exposure.”

A news conference today (Tues., Jan. 26) at 10:30, in front of S.F. City Hall (Polk St entrance), will release the brochure being held by the Dental Board, and will focus on the growing concern about mercury-based dental fillings on low-income children and pregnant women.

At a rare field hearing yesterday, the U.S. House Wellness and Human Rights Subcommittee Chair Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Ranking Diane Watson (D-CA) took turns strongly criticizing the Dental Board for withholding a fact sheet it has prepared and approved which tells patients that silver fillings are 50% mercury, that mercury can cause birth defects, and that mercury harms the developing brain of a child or fetus. The dental board refused to appear before the committee, held at the USC campus on Monday afternoon, prompting accusations from the Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry that the Board is “stonewalling the Congress and stonewalling the people of California.”

Today, at a news conference, minority leaders called on the Dental Board to “stop stalling when pregnant women need information on mercury exposure now.” African-American activist Noah Griffin Jr. said, “The poor, people of color, and children are now harmed the most by mercury fillings. Dentists no longer give mercury fillings to middle-class adults, and it’s time they told everyone why.” Anita Vazquez Tibau, California director for the Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry.

On November 7, the Dental Board approved a brochure to go to all dental patient, which gives specific warnings to parents and pregnant women about the danger of mercury to children and fetuses, and which gives the Proposition 65 warning about reproductive harm from the toxin mercury. Since then, under heavy pressure from organized dentistry, board president Newt Gordon has tried to prevent the release of the fact sheet. Gordon, a dentist affiliated with USF dental school, fired mercury-free dentist Chet Yokoyama as chair of the committee writing the fact sheeet, a matter of special concern to Congressman Burton, Congresswoman Watson, and the spokespersons at the news conference in San Francisco. Charlie Brown, national counsel to the Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry, called the firing “a body blow to those who want the truth about mercury fillings.”

The Coalition praised the San Francisco Commission on the Environment, who recently mandated that all dentists acquire technology to stop the pouring of mercury into the San Francisco Bay. Dentists are the largest source of mercury in the environment, yet the California Dental Association opposes the mandating of simple technologies to stop the flow of mercury. The separators are mandated only in the City of San Francisco, not in other counties that ring the Bay, and the time for implementing even the San Francisco ordinance will take months. Vazquez Tibau called for a moratorium on the placing of mercury fillings for 90 days, “giving time to install the separators and giving other Bay Area counties time to consider making the same simple environmental requirement.”

The Dental Board is a state agency based in Sacramento. Its executive officer is Cynthia Gatlin, ph. 916.263-2140. The board is meeting this Thursday and Friday at a plush Sacramento hotel, in violation of Governor Schwarzenegger's orders to meet in state office buildings to save taxpayers money.

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