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Industry Leader Censors Stories Written by Dental News Reporters

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page.

 Dentsply International, one of the world's largest manufacturers of mercury-based dental products, has pressured mainstream dental industry publications to remove articles about mercury's toxicity and questions about the company's plans to dump these products in the poorer countries in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia.

The articles, which appeared in the online publications Dental Tribune and Dentistry IQ in late September and early October, mysteriously disappeared just as the governments of 92 nations, including the United States, were in the process of implementing an agreement calling for a "phase down" of mercury-based amalgam fillings.

The Dental Tribune acknowledged that it removed the Dentsply story from its website "because we received a big complaint from the company."

In the lead-up to the treaty signing, which took place on Oct. 10 near Minamata, Japan - site of the notorious Minamata disease, a mercury-related illness that has killed or maimed thousands of the area's inhabitants - health and environmental activists from around the world sent a letter to Dentsply CEO Bret W. Wise, urging him not to use the treaty's provision on the "phase down" of mercury-based dental amalgam as a pretext for dumping its products in developing countries.  This was precisely the course of action that American tobacco companies took after the U.S. and many other governments began issuing warnings about the dangers of smoking in the 1960s.

The censored Dental Tribune piece included references to "the treaty on phasing down the use of amalgam" and widely held concerns that "the dental companies will dispose of mercury-containing filling materials in Africa, South Asia and Latin America." But the article also pointed out that Dentsply "produces many affordable, high-quality alternatives to dental amalgam."

Fears that Dentsply might now be looking at developing countries as major markets for mercury-amalgam fillings were heightened after Dentsply's sponsorship of a conference in Birmingham, England, in August. A critical theme of the conference - "the demise of amalgam" - appeared to apply only to the distribution of amalgam products in European countries. By taking the unusual step of censoring these articles in prominent dental publications, Dentsply has exacerbated those fears.

Few issues have gained as much international support as restricting the manufacture of mercury-based products. In a media note last week, the U. S. State Department said: "The Minamata Convention represents a global step forward to reduce exposure to mercury, a toxic chemical with significant health effects on the brain and nervous system."

"Dentsply International has every right to express its opinion freely on the health effects from exposure to mercury," said Charlie Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. "But that doesn't mean it has the right to censor the freely expressed opinions of others.  Obstructing freedom of the press - that's stepping over the line."