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Monitoring of Mercury Amalgams </P> Two American agencies mean to pay closer attention to the health effects of mercury amalgam fillings.

Monitoring of Mercury Amalgams

Two American agencies mean to pay closer attention to the health effects of mercury amalgam fillings. The US Food and Drug Administration is proposing new guidelines for reporting side-effects from the use of dental mercury, while the National Institutes of Health is studying the effects of mercury fillings in children. Scientists have found low levels of mercury can affect future learning and muscle co-ordination of unborn children. Recent evidence indicates a significant risk for cardiovascular and immune system problems at low levels of exposure.

Fillings commonly referred to as "silver" are actually an amalgam (mixture) of half mercury and the remainder silver, copper, tin and zinc. The average American has seven mercury fillings, according to Dr. Michael Ziff, executive director of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, who added, "It's like holding seven leaking mercury thermometers in your mouth."

The Canadian Dental Association stands behind mercury amalgams, although it acknowledges that amalgam fillings "release minute amounts of mercury vapour, especially with chewing. Some of this mercury may be absorbed by the body, reach various organs, and in pregnant women, cross the placenta." Health Canada recommends that amalgam fillings not be placed in or removed from the teeth of pregnant women and that non-mercury materials be considered for restoring the primary teeth of children. Sweden has banned mercury amalgams outright.
--Acres USA, June 2002; Canadian Dental Association; Environment Canada

Are You Really Environmentally Friendly?

Four simple tests to find out if you know and care about what is happening to our earth:

The Car Test - Do you drive a car that is bigger or more powerful than you need? That likely means you don't worry much about greenhouse gases or pollution. And if you own a SUV, you're not a friend of the environment. It's doubtful that anybody who cares about the health of the earth would buy one of these gas guzzlers. And few people need to: Statistics show that most SUVs do not go off-road--or even leave the city.

The Lawn Test - Do you have a large, green, weedless lawn? If you do, you are probably not environmentally friendly. Lawns are usually mowed with polluting machines, and are often heavily watered and doused with poisonous chemicals that are dangerous to both children and the environment.

The Fish Test - Do you eat over-harvested Chilean sea bass or swordfish? If not, you are likely both fish-savvy and responsible. To discover the environmentally best and worst fish to eat, see mbayaq.org and click on "Seafood Watch."

The Clothing Test - Do you wear a sweater at home to keep warm in winter, and in the summer do you wear your lightest clothes? If so, you are probably conscientious about energy use, and greenhouse gas and smog emissions.
--adapted from Vancouver Environmental Guide 2002

Controversy Over Engineered Cotton

Cotton modified with a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) not only harms its target--the bollworm, but it also harms this insect's natural enemy, according to a Chinese study by the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences (and published by Greenpeace International). In addition, results show that if planted continuously over time, Bt cotton loses its resistance to the bollworm, making its gene technology ineffective. Monsanto, the company responsible for 80 per cent of the genetically modified (GM) cotton crops worldwide, disputes the findings and hails Bt cotton as a success story. The research further suggests that GM cotton crops could lead to irreversible environmental damage, a claim hotly rejected by Monsanto and Chinese government scientists. This is particularly worrisome as China is projecting to dramatically increase its use of GM crops in coming years.
--Elisabeth Abergel, PhD

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