Tooth Fillings Scare

Crematoria have been ordered to halve the amount of toxic mercury released into the atmosphere from tooth fillings. Mercury accumulates in the air and in water, and can harm the brain, kidneys, nervous system and unborn children. Crematoria are estimated to be responsible for up to 16 per cent of mercury emissions in the UK and the amount released into the environment is predicted to rise by two-thirds by 2020 unless action is taken. Under strict new government rules, crematoria must cut their emissions by 50 per cent by 2012 through the installation of special filtering equipment. But funeral directors have warned that operators will inevitably pass on the increased costs to bereaved relatives. 'The National Association of Funeral Directors' (NAFD) estimates it will add 75_GBP to 100_GBP to the price of an average cremation -- currently 250_GBP to 350_GBP. Mr.Alan Slater, the NAFD's Chief Executive, said:
'What concerns us is that bereaved families will have to bear the cost of this. Crematorium managers will pass the costs on, but it is funeral directors who will have to address the issue with relatives'.
Although mercury has been used by dentists for 150 years -- it is hard-wearing, long-lasting and cheaper than alternatives such as plastic -- there has been growing concern over the damaging health effects; airborne particles can be inhaled, can contaminate watercourses and are easily absorbed by plants and wildlife. The problem is particularly bad in the west of Scotland, where poor dental health means a high proportion of the population has fillings.
Lord Whitty, the environment minister, said there were 40_000 cremations a year in Scotland.
'By 2020, crematoria will be by far the biggest single contributor to mercury emissions in this country', he said. 'Something must be done. 'Our decision, on which we consulted widely, strikes a balance between the concerns about cost to crematoria and the need to control emissions of a substance which can damage human health and the environment'.
Mr.Tim Williamson, of 'The National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection', believes the government should subsidise the replacement of mercury fillings with alternatives.
'They haven't looked at removing the mercury whilst the person is still alive', he said. 'Relatives are understandably upset at the thought of the teeth being removed from the body so to remove it while they are still alive could be an alternative to buying this equipment'.
Mr.Brendan Day, of 'The Federation of British Crematorium Authorities' (FBCA), explained that the special equipment worked by cooling down the gasses before they are passed over carbon.
'Normally the emissions that come out of a cremator are 1000 [degrees] centigrade. This equipment means that a cooling system is attached at the back and then powdered charcoal is added which the mercury clings to. A specialist company then picks up the solid waste for disposal'.
Mr.Duncan Mccallum, the FBCA secretary, said:
'The problem we were facing was that 25 per cent of crematoria ... could not physically fit this equipment and there was a likelihood they would have to close'.
Britain has also signed up to an international treaty, 'The UN Heavy Metals Protocol', which aims to cut down on emissions of harmful metals, including mercury. Britain has already achieved one of its obligations by reducing its emissions of mercury to below 1990 levels, from 31_600_kg_ to 8_000_kg in 2002. 'Crackdown on toxic emissions will push up cremation costs', Angie Brown, The Scotsman, 2005-01-11


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you Brits got nothing better to worry about than tooth filling pollution? This is a joke. Right?

1/12/2005 12:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't they just get rid of mercury fillings altogether? They are bad news for everyone. So (forgive the pun) but shouldn't they be aiming at the root of the problem, instead of dealing with the effects later?

I know mercury fillings are bad for dementia patients, pregnant women and those will certain illnesses like HIV and cancer.

We can laser these days, or opt for the white fillings. So what if the white ones don't last 100 years? It's no big deal to get them replaced eveyr 30 years or so...is it not worth it?

1/13/2005 03:08:00 am  

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