LDA Minnesota works with LDA of America’s Healthy Children’s Project and Minnesota’s Healthy Legacy Coalition on advocating for toxic chemical reforms to protect the developing brains of children. We sent a letter to the CEO of Patterson Companies and also sent this press release was sent out to media sources on the continued use of mercury amalgams that disproportionately impacts communities of color by a local corporation:
For Immediate Release
Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project 802-223-9000 email@example.com
Tess Dornfeld, Clean Water Action Minnesota 218-353-1776 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy Gregoire, Learning Disabilities Association of America 412-341-1515 x4 email@example.com
Nonprofits Question Patterson Dental’s Toxic Trade in Mercury Amalgam
St. Paul, MN—Today, during its annual meeting, health, disability and environmental groups are questioning Patterson Dental’s continued production, distribution, and sales of dental amalgam. Composed of 50% mercury, a well-known neurotoxicant, amalgam is a health risk for children and other vulnerable populations, and results in a significant release of mercury pollution.
Following up on the letter the groups sent last week to Patterson’s President and CEO Mark Walchirk, they questioned whether continued amalgam sales are consistent with the St. Paul-based company’s Corporate Responsibility commitment to “implementing greener practices” and “promoting diversity and inclusion.”
“Patterson’s continued sales of mercury amalgam flies in the face of their environmental pledges, and disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, and Indigenous dental patients,” said Tess Dornfeld, Healthy Legacy Organizer for Clean Water Action Minnesota.
It has now been two years since FDA issued a safety notice recommending against amalgam use in children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and other high-risk populations, including those with neurological issues or kidney disease. In apparent response to the FDA safety communication, two major U.S. publicly traded companies, Dentsply and Envista, have exited amalgam.
As noted in the Journal of the National Medical Association commentary “Is Amalgam Toxic to Children of Color?” the risks of mercury exposure fall most heavily on children in non-white communities. Amalgam’s mercury disproportionately pollutes the lower-income and Black, Brown, and Indigenous neighborhoods often located near remaining sources of mercury, including waste incinerators, crematoria, and coal-fired power plants.
“The question for Patterson shareholders is: do they recognize the legal, shareholder, customer, and public relations vulnerabilities of a publicly-traded company selling amalgam?” said Michael Bender, Director of Mercury Policy Project. “Or do they want to continue polluting the environment, harming disadvantaged people, and pursuing profits over being a good corporate citizen?”
The concerns are not just related to exposure to mercury in the amalgam itself, but also the life cycle of amalgam that adds to cumulative and disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities. These communities already face higher exposure to mercury and other harmful chemicals where they live, learn, work and play, including mercury in skin lightening creams and dietary mercury from fish.
Once dominant in dentistry, amalgam has been surpassed in technology by non-invasive, non-polluting, tooth-friendly, and comparably-priced alternatives.
Martha Moriarty of the Learning Disabilities Association of Minnesota said, “Mercury-free alternatives are cost-effective, perform as well, and are available and used worldwide. We are asking Patterson to only sell the safer, non-polluting alternatives, which will also help protect children’s brain health.”
Finally, the groups note that while the science on amalgam and health continues to evolve, the data are strong enough to prompt a global shift away from mercury-based fillings. The World Health Organization recently declared mercury a major public health and environmental concern, recommending composite and glass ionomer fillings as healthful,
cost-effective alternatives to amalgam. The European Union bans amalgam in children younger than age 15, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. Many other countries have banned or limited amalgam use. And the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the U.S. signed in 2013, has called for a phase-out of amalgam use in those same vulnerable groups.
For more information:
Patterson 2020 Corporate statement
FDA’s Amalgam Safety Communication