Studies find no evidence of harm from mercury in dental fillings

Two long-awaited, U.S.-government-funded studies, one of which was conducted in Portugal, found no evidence that dental fillings containing mercury can cause IQ-lowering brain damage or other neurological problems in children.

Children with such fillings were no more likely than other youngsters to suffer such problems, the researchers found.

Some experts found the findings powerfully reassuring. But the studies are unlikely to end the fierce debate over the long-term effects of what are known as amalgam fillings, and some advocates bitterly accused the researchers of conducting unethical experiments on children.

Amalgam fillings, also called silver fillings, are made of mercury and other metals and have been used by dentists for more than a century. But their use has dropped in recent years as more and more doctors switch to resin composite fillings, which are considered more appealing because they are white.

Some advocacy groups and dentists have long contended that the mercury in fillings can leach into the body and cause harmful neurological effects, including autism.

The latest studies were published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We didn't see any indications of harm to these kids," said Dr. Timothy DeRouen, a University of Washington professor of biostatistics and dental public health sciences, who led a study of 507 children, ages 8 to 10, in Portugal to determine if mercury fillings had any neurological effects. "And we tested them repeatedly over seven years", reports AP.

O.Ch.