World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistr

U.S. Affiliate:  Consumers for Dental Choice,

316 F St. NE, Suite 210, Washington DC 20002 USA

Telephone (1) 202-544-6333    Fax 202-544-6331

David Piper, Ph.D, Deputy Head, Chemicals Branch

United Nations Environment Programme

Carolyn Vickers, M.D., Team Leader, Chemical Safety.

World Health Organization


Re: WHO must reject Petersen paper, which seeks to derail amalgam plank in mercury treaty

Dear Dr. Piper and Dr. Vickers:

Four pro-mercury dentists, all from developed nations, have issued a propaganda paper for mercury amalgam – and have the audacity to attach to it the name “World Health Organization” even though only one of them even works at WHO.  The paper advances the agenda of a trade group based in Geneva which seeks to make dental mercury the staple for developing nations in the 21st century.  It is replete with omissions and outright false claims which wrongly denies the substantial progress made toward phasing out amalgam in some countries; it dismisses obvious steps toward phasing-out amalgam, such as insurance reform and disclosing the mercury content to consumers; it is contemptuous of both critics of amalgam and developing nations seeking to convert to mercury-free dentistry.  Raising dentists to semi-deity status, the paper advances the reckless notion that dentists have no duty whatsoever to stop using mercury and start using alternative materials – a position that is strikingly different from that of all other industries who are conscientiously developing phase-down strategies for other mercury products.  Instead of blaming irresponsible dental professionals for the growing dental mercury problem, the pro-mercury dentists who wrote the paper blame . . . the world’s children – it’s the children’s fault, say these pro-mercury dentists, for getting all those cavities. (At Stockholm, we did not see physicians announcing they’d abandon mercury fever thermometers if only children would stop getting sick.).


The Petersen Paper is Authored Only by Pro-Mercury Dentists – Who Excluded All Other Stakeholders

In an attempt to derail an effective amalgam provisions in the treaty, WHO’s in-house dentist Poul Petersen enlisted three dentists who share his pro-mercury bias to compose a paper favoring amalgam.  The four shut out all other stakeholders from the process.  The pro-mercury dentists excluded from participation (1) mercury-free dentists, the very dental professionals with the experience and technical expertise needed to outline a plan to transition out of mercury; (2) environmentalists, who could explain the costly environmental and environmental health damage caused by dental mercury; (3) all people from developing nations, who will bear the brunt of dental mercury pollution in the years to come; (4) dental workers, who are grievously harmed by mercury exposure in the workplace; and (5) consumers, including parents who do not want their children’s developing nervous systems exposed to a known neurotoxin.  The Petersen cohorts even excluded the United Nations Environmental Programme, whose splendid work to date has brought the world to work together against mercury.

WHO must reject this propaganda piece, reach out to consult all stakeholders in the preparation of the WHO report, and then produce a legitimate report on dental mercury.  Including all stakeholders in the development of the report offers numerous advantages:

  • The mercury-free half of the dental profession – represented by organizations such as the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology and the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine – offers a road map to a phase-out, based on their own experience with phasing out amalgam from their own practices.
  • The environmental groups – including those outstanding coalitions the Zero Mercury Working Group and IPEN – offer awareness of the costly and unnecessary environmental impact, both direct and indirect.
  • The developing nations offer input from the two-thirds of the world which are now being targeted by the amalgam industry for its sales in the coming decades.
  • The consumer groups – now represented by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry – offer the unique perspective of the concerned parents, injured patients, and pregnant women who ultimate decide what dental materials are used in their bodies.
  • The United Nations Environmental Programme offers well-considered routes to a phase-out, such as insurance reform (about which UNEP issued a paper).


FDI Has a Blatant Economic Stake in Blocking Alternatives to Mercury Amalgam

The four pro-mercury dentists who wrote the Petersen paper want the world, especially the developing nations, to surrender policymaking on amalgam to the World Dental Federation (FDI), a Geneva-based trade group laden with special-interest money from amalgam manufacturers and sellers such as Henry Schein Inc., Ivoclar-Vivadent, and Dentsply International.  With developing nations increasingly rejecting mercury fillings, these corporate interests have targeted developing nations for amalgam sales.  With amalgam industry support, FDI recently moved its headquarters from Paris to Geneva in order to increase its lobbying clout with WHO; obviously, this effort has succeeded.

FDI dentists are fighting for themselves, not the children. The success of Atraumatic Restorative Treatment means the end of the dentist monopoly, taking away profits of FDI members. Likewise, the success of resin means the mercury-free dentists win in the marketplace against FDI pro-mercury dentists.  So FDI, and the four pro-mercury dentists advancing the FDI agenda, protect this primitive and polluting – but highly profitable – product.


The Petersen Paper Is an Attack on Developing Nations

The paper by the pro-mercury dentists is contemptuous of the people and the environments of developing nations. The comments about Africans are particularly offensive: WHO claims Africans prefer amalgam “for aesthetic reasons,” apparently assuming Africans aren’t aware of the environmental and health risks dental mercury entails.  According to WHO, these aesthetic whims and “not the science” will drive the phase out of amalgam in Africa.  WHO must immediately condemn this derogatory comment and acknowledge that Africans, like all consumers worldwide, are capable of making rational health decisions.

The pro-mercury dentists who wrote the Petersen report are fully aware that these developing nations do not have the resources to manage dental mercury pollution or even install separators. They know that dental mercury will go into the environment – and cause injury to children in developing nations for generations to come.

Yes, the West made a 200-year mistake with dental mercury.  But it is morally outrageous that these same interest groups are insistent that the developing nations repeat this horror.


The Petersen Paper Is Replete with Errors and Omissions

The paper by the pro-mercury dentists is shameless in its shuffling of facts to fit their goal of protecting amalgam in the treaty.  They actually claim that Sweden’s amalgam use is 74%!  As a Scandinavian, Poul Petersen knows this to be blatantly false; Sweden has phased out amalgam entirely.  We call on WHO to determine if Dr. Petersen delegated writing the paper to his dentist colleagues at FDI, and added his name – and WHO’s name – to the work product of this industry group.

The report makes the false claim that amalgam has been found safe even for children and fetuses.  Contrary to WHO’s claim, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states in its 2009 regulation that not only is there no evidence that amalgam is safe for these vulnerable populations, but amalgam does have the potential to cause them neurological harm.  Other countries, such as Canada, have already issued warnings that amalgam should not be used in children, pregnant women, and people with kidney impairments.  Since ART has proven particularly successful for children, as grudgingly acknowledged in the Petersen paper, there is no excuse for endangering them with unnecessary mercury exposure.

The paper by the pro-mercury dentists ignores the success of nations that have significantly phased down or even phased out amalgam:  Japan.  Indonesia.  Vietnam.  The entire Nordic region.

The paper pretends that phase-down strategies won’t work, when Dr. Petersen knows otherwise; he participated in an entire program a year ago discussing these strategies.  Insurance reform, consumer education about the mercury, consumer choice, dentist education about the environmental harm, dentist training to do composites, training of non-dentists to do ART, wider availability of alternatives, etc., etc. – here are strategies that can and do work.  But the status quo being so lucrative for FDI dentists, the Petersen paper attempts to squelch honest phase-down efforts.

The paper ignores the horrid workplace impact of amalgam on dental workers.  Obviously the plight of employees is of no concern to the employer class which authored the Petersen Paper.


It’s Time for WHO to Work With UNEP and the Stakeholders

We highly commend the excellent work of the United Nations Environmental Programme, which works so hard to include all stakeholders.  The contrast between UNEP and WHO could not be greater – while UNEP includes all stakeholders, WHO’s in-house dentist excludes all but his faction of dentistry, those with no experience in phasing out amalgam, those with a vested economic interest in protecting the status quo, those who profit by sabotaging this very treaty.  Only one conclusion is possible: the FDI cartel fears that UNEP will succeed in a program to rid the world of anthropogenic mercury, and seeks to stop it.

We call on WHO to reject the Petersen paper because it is biased, it is scientifically and factually incorrect, and its agenda is patently to derail the amalgam plank of the treaty. We call on WHO to return to its role as advocate against toxins — and to cut its ties with the trade group advocating this primitive and polluting mercury product which has no role in 21st century medicine.

We ask UNEP and WHO to assemble a broad team in Chiba, who can then prepare a report that will show a phase-out of amalgam is desirable and feasible.

Sincerely yours,
Charles G. Brown, President

World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry

29 November 2010

cc–Vice Presidents, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry: Servando Perez, First Vice President (Spain); Dominique Bally, Vice President-Africa (Côte d’Ivoire); Dr. Naji Kodeih, Vice President-Middle East (Lebanon); Marie Grosman, Vice President-Europe (France); Juliet Platt, Vice President-Oceania (New Zealand); Anita Vazquez-Tibau, Vice President-the Americas (United States).