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Activists Sue National Dental Groups Over Mercury Fillings

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Associated Press

Thursday, February 21, 2002; 1:09 PM

Consumers are not being made aware of the use of mercury in amalgam fillings, according to a class action suit filed Thursday against the American Dental Association and its state chapter.

The complaint accuses the groups of misrepresenting amalgam dental fillings as “silver,” when 50 percent of the fillings are mercury by weight. An attorney for the ADA said mercury amalgam fillings have been proven to be safe.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Lisa Hogan, of Rosedale, is seeking the $1,115 she paid for the fillings. The class-action lawsuit, filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, also calls for the organizations to cover the cost of replacing mercury fillings from the mouths of Marylanders.

The lawsuit claims the American Dental Association and the Maryland State Dental Association have not told patients about warnings from filling manufacturers about using amalgams on people allergic to mercury, pregnant women and young children.

The MSDA also is accused of threatening to punish dentists who discuss the possible dangers of mercury fillings with customers. The complaint said the MSDA also violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act by “engaging in fraudulent and deceptive business practices.”

“Everyone assumes the ADA knows everything about this,” said Shawn Khorrami, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney. “Why is the public being deprived of legally mandated warnings? You can use high school chemistry to disprove the premise of which they promote amalgam safety.”

Peter M. Sfikas, chief counsel for the American Dental Association, said he had not seen the suit, but noted that amalgam fillings have been found to be safe by a number of agencies, including the federal Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

“I can tell you there is no danger to anyone who has dental amalgam fillings. There is only a very, very small percentage of the population that may be allergic to the ingredients. Except for that small percentage, it is safe and effective.”

Khorrami said a similar lawsuit was filed in California last June.

Mercury exposure can cause cancer, birth defects and nerve damage. However, scientific studies on the effects of mercury in amalgam – a term that refers specifically to alloys of mercury – have been largely inconclusive.

© 2002 The Associated Press

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