Dental amalgam has sparked controversy for decades, although research has not proven that it is unsafe or that it causes harm to patients. The increased attention, however, brings with it increased legislation that may require doctors to post product warnings, ban the use of amalgam altogether, or purchase costly filtration and separation equipment, reports the July 2001 issue of AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry.
Practicing dentists in California are required to post signs in their offices, listing the dangers of using amalgam with mercury. "My greatest concern is of an inappropriate overreaction on the part of the regulatory agencies," says Myron Bromberg, DDS, national spokesperson of the Academy and American Dental Association Oversight Committee for the Future of Dentistry.
A New York state senate bill, "Comprehensive Management of Waste Mercury Act of 2001," would ban dental amalgam for children under 15 and for pregnant women. And, in Toronto, the city passed a basic toxic substance discharge law that limits mercury content to .01 milligrams per liter, the lowest in North America. The limit is 10 times lower than it used to be, and fines run from $10,000 to $20,000.
Peter G. Bastian, DDS, MAGD, president of the Ontario Academy of General Dentistry, says the limits are too low and there is no way regulators can monitor each dentist's mercury discharge. Dental offices in Toronto now have to use a separator, which can add to the costs of dental care for patients.