Mum’s mercury fight heats up

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A Queenstown mum’s launched a petition calling on the government to scrap the use of amalgam dental fillings – at least for children – due to fears over mercury poisoning.

Victoria Ludemann, who’s lived in Queenstown since 2001, has a family history of cardiovascular disease and began having heart problems of her own three years ago.

The mum-of-two subsequently began researching mercury toxicity and says many clinical studies link the element to heart disease and other conditions, such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Since having five amalgam fillings removed, Ludemann says symptoms have stopped, and she’s got the clear from her doctor and is in far better health than before.

She wants a nationwide ban put in place.

“I’m now looking at my two kids thinking if I put that in their mouths and leave it there for 40 years, what will happen to them?”

“It scares me.”

But whether amalgam fillings are harmful to human health is a controversial issue that divides even the medical industry.

In July last year, the EU banned the use of amalgam fillings in children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Other non-EU countries have followed suit.

“The direct impact it’s had on me and the fact that other countries are banning it validates for me I’m on track,” she says.

Southern District Health Board says it’s phasing out the material with only nine per cent of fillings being done in amalgam.

There’s no scientific evidence that dental amalgam is harmful to human health, deputy chief medical officer Tim Mackay says.

“Most arguments for finding an alternative are related to reducing mercury in the environment, especially waterways.”

Waikato DHB went amalgam-free in 2018. Waikato’s principal dental officer Rob Aitken says the decision was based on environmental concerns, not perceived health risks. “We are following the lead of other countries that are trying to eliminate mercury from the environment, because it ends up in the food chain.”

There are strict controls around removing and disposing of amalgam fillings, Dr Aitken says, while a spill will force a clinic to shut down temporarily.

Currently, the government only subsidises amalgam restoration.

But Dr Aitken, who’s also involved in dental audits, says the use of these fillings is declining around the country as demand for more natural-looking options increases.

Most dentists are using white-coloured fillings and usually at no extra cost to the patient, he says.

“Amalgam will suffer its own demise over time.”

That can’t come soon enough for Ludemann, who’s holding a public meeting on the issue at Shotover Primary School Hall, at 6.30pm, on September 4.

People can sign the petition there or at mercuryfillings.co.nz

miranda.cook@scene.co.nz