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Dental amalgam fillings have so little mercury that they're not a health hazard, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled after concluding a six-year review of 200 studies on the contentious issue.
"The best available scientific evidence supports the conclusion that patients with dental amalgam fillings are not at risk for mercury-associated adverse health effects," said Susan Runner, the FDA's dental products director.
It was something of an about-face for the FDA, which last year settled a lawsuit with anti-mercury activists by posting on its Web site a precaution saying questions remained about whether the small amount of mercury vapor the fillings can release were enough to harm the developing brains of fetuses or very young children. That advisory, which was updated as recently as July 8, has been removed from the FDA site.
Still, the agency did slightly strengthen how it regulates the fillings, urging dentists to provide their patients with a government-written statement detailing the mercury controversy and what science shows.
The FDA states that the lengthy review settles the matter, but it hasn't entirely convinced Jane Hightower, a San Francisco internist and author of "Diagnosis: Mercury," which was published late last year and criticizes as inadequate the FDA's program for advising consumers about the health risks of mercury in fish.