My guest today is Greg Gordon, National Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau. As an investigative reporter, Greg has spent 38 years uncovering waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct in Washington. I called him last week after his article about the FDA and mercury fillings was published and we had a great conversation about other stories he had done on toxics over the years. Today we’ll be talking about toxics from the viewpoint of an investigative reporter: why he writes about toxics and the investigative process. Greg has received so many awards I can’t fit them all in this space. Read more about Greg’s distinguished career at www.mcclatchydc.com/customer-service/contact-us/article24432826.html
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
An Investigative Reporter’s Take on Toxics
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Greg Gordon
Date of Broadcast: August 06, 2016
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world and live toxic free.
It is Thursday, August 6th 2015, and apparently, we just had some technical difficulties with my microphone, but I think you can hear me now.
We’re going to be talking about something a little bit different today. Usually, we talk about toxic chemicals or we talk about products that don’t have toxic chemicals. We talk about detox, all kinds of things like that.
But today, for the first time, we’re going to be talking to an investigative reporter. We’ve never talked to an investigative reporter before, but I was very interested to talk to him. I’ve never even done this before either, which is I called up an investigative reporter after I read a really excellent article last week. We talked about this article last Wednesday.
I talked with Pamela Seefeld (my guest last Wednesday) about this article about the FDA warning dentists that if they can possibly help it, no patients of any kind should actually be having mercury fillings.
So today, we have the reporter who wrote that story, dug it up and put it all together. I’m just so excited to talk to him because I want to know all about how investigative reporters investigate and how do they find these stories and what do they do. It’s such detective work.
I know that, for myself, what I do is detective work in a way that’s finding those hidden toxic chemicals in the consumer products and then finding the products that work better. But this is a real investigative reporter.
His name is Greg Gordon. He’s a national correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau. He’s been an investigative reporter for 38 years covering waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct in Washington.
GREG GORDON: How are you, Debra? Thanks for having me.
DEBRA: I’m great. How are you doing?
GREG GORDON: Pretty well. Aside from a little emergency with my son’s eight month old Siberian Husky who bled all over the floor this morning. She probably punctured her digestive tract somehow. She’s in the hospital. We’re already at $1600 and just getting warmed up.
It’s been a stressful morning, but…
DEBRA: A little excitement today.
GREG GORDON: A little excitement. I hope it wasn’t a toxin that caused this. I don’t think so. I think it was more like eating a branch probably.
DEBRA: So tell us, how did you become interested in being an investigative reporter?
GREG GORDON: I guess that traces back to relatively early in my career. My career started at age five. That’s what my mother says anyway that I started putting out a penny newspaper in my neighborhood in a small town in Southern Minnesota.
I really shadowed my big brother into journalism because he worked on the student paper. So did I and that continued through college. In college, at the University of Minnesota (which has a very large student paper), the reading population at the University of Minnesota’s, the student paper, at the time was 70,000 or 80,000. So, I was really going to be a sports writer, but I got into digging.
And then, along came the Vietnam War and the sports just didn’t seem very important with what was going on on campus.
And so I decided that I wanted to try to be a regular news reporter, which was a big transition. Almost immediately, I wanted to dig deeper really when I was a young reporter, a wire service reporter in Minneapolis.
And really, investigative reporting, one of the definitions for investigative reporting is just finding out information that’s concealed from the public. And there’s what I call pure investigative reporting where you’re really doing original research. And then there’s leak investigative reporting, what the FBI investigation uncover and so forth.
I like the original research when I can. Really, I’d call the FDA story that I did a combination of both. But mostly, there wasn’t an ongoing investigation. I was trying to find out what an agency was doing and why. I only got part of the way frankly. I think there are more questions to be answered.
Just to recap, the story basically said that after all these decades of defending and allowing the use of what is known in the trade as amalgam fillings (we call them mercury fillings because nobody knows what amalgam is), the FDA finally, and really, in the face of a lot of people who have come forward and said that when they had the amalgam fillings taken out of their mouths, their health improved, in some cases, stunningly.
For example, some people had symptoms of and were diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis and it went away. It just went away. It’s astonishing.
Most of us probably (and certainly, older people like me), we know people who have died of multiple sclerosis. In fact, the wife of another journalist for one, the Houston Paper, just passed away this year that I know. She suffered horribly with multiple sclerosis. I’d like to know now how many mercury fillings she had in her mouth.
I don’t know if that’s the sole cause of multiple sclerosis symptoms. But in any event, I think that the FDA’s Director of Medical Devices and Radiological Health Division, which oversees, regulates these products, a guy named Jeffrey Shuren, whom I’ve never met, my impression is that he sided (whatever faction they had in his unit at the FDA) with those people in concluding that certain people are sensitive to mercury and vulnerable to significant, potentially disabling, even lethal health effects from mercury, either the vapors or the particles from when they chew gum and somehow break free some of the mercury.
Mercury is bound with other metals, silver particularly. That’s why we call them silver fillings. They’re often called silver fillings.
DEBRA: It sounds nicer than mercury fillings.
GREG GORDON: Yes, exactly. It was also a selling point. The dental profession calls them silver fillings.
In any event, apparently, Jeffrey Shuren sided with these folks (this is my speculation) and he got it through all the people.
And we had a big decision when we wrote this story about whether to mention that Margaret Hamburg (because there was a ruckus about her. She was the FDA commissioner at the time. She just left this March) had any role in this. And what I was told was no. And so ultimately, we took her out of the story.
And the reason I raised her is that upon joining the FDA, Margaret Hamburg, also known as Peggy, resigned her position as a member of the Board of Directors of the Henry Schein Company, which is the biggest distributor of mercury amalgam and a lot of other health care products. But in particular, they’re a distributor of mercury fillings, the components or the compounds, in the United States.
And their stock shot up in 2009 when the FDA decided not to do much of anything about mercury fillings and issued a rule that classified them in Class II, which are not the real dangerous products where the manufacturers are required to first prove that their product is safe before it goes on the market.
So Hamburg either recused herself, withdrew from any involvement in this or she said okay. She put her own perimeter on it and sent it on to HHS, Department of Health and Human Services.
To break this down, the FDA, its duty is solely to determine the safety and the effectiveness of the products that it regulates. The Department of Health and Human Services, they have the responsibility of doing cost benefit analyses.
And this is a process that really traces to the Reagan years when cost benefit analyses really became a big deal and there were a lot of environmental regulatory sites because sometimes, in fact, they would put a value on a human life and they tend to come down to $1 million. At the time, it’s okay to spend this much money on exposing this many people to this toxin or toxin, but not this much money.
They were heated. There have been, really, over the last 30 or 40 years, some heated arguments over class benefit analyses.
So what did HHS do? HHS did a cost benefit analysis and concluded that lower income people were going to be harmed by this regulation because it would raise the cost. The alternative fillings (principally, composite fillings. You can also use ceramics or even gold, gold being very expensive and ceramics being more expensive), composite fillings typically depends upon the dentist, of course. And a high end dentist, I’m sure, charges a lot more. But composite fillings typically cost maybe 100 bucks more.
So they concluded that low income people would then just let their teeth decay if the dentist said, “Look, I don’t want to put amalgam in your mouth because it could be poison you. It could harm you.”
DEBRA: It could poison you.
GREG GORDON: I neglected to mention one of the things that’s noted by the FDA is that mercury fillings constantly, continuously release very, very low levels of mercury vapor. I mentioned chewing gum, they found or if you grind your teeth at night.
I’m an older guy, so I have a few mercury fillings in my mouth. Not to get personal here, but I have to check out a few health issues that I have because they fit into the box of possible problems from exposure to mercury.
And of course, most of us eat fish. And there’s mercury in a lot of the fish especially sushi.
So bottom line is, the FDA was overruled and what really was troubling about this is that the FDA is overruled and here’s this public safety communication that they drafted at the end of 2011 and they had a little data on the top of it. We’ve now posted it on our website. It’s a link in the ‘stories’ if anybody wants to look. It says, XX12 (which is what’s the date in 2012) that they’re going to issue this public safety communication.
And here it is now, 2015. And finally, it becomes public, but not through the FDA but in a newspaper story. It was kept secret for three years and how many people had mercury amalgam implanted without knowing the potential risks in the interim?
The American Dental Association would go ballistic to listen to what I just said because they are as emphatic as you could be in citing what they say is definitive research demonstrating that mercury fillings are perfectly safe.
One of the issues, by the way, is that some people have mercury allergies. I think that showed up in some of the – we published on our website six case studies. I sent some more case studies. At McClatchy, it’s 29 papers. I did about 10 of them. A lot of these people said they had a mercury filling replaced. They would have an immediate reaction.
So you’re the dentist, 157,000 members of American Dental Association and the dentists are using these, especially in programs like Medicaid or the Veterans Administration, hospitals or facilities (I don’t know how much the VA does on dental, but I think they have some kind of coverage) and places where lower income people would have some sort of insurance coverage that only provides benefits if you use amalgam. And how many of these people didn’t get to know over those three years? Let alone, how long this battle inside the FDA has been going on because there are, pretty clearly, factions within the FDA?
Margaret Hamburg’s situation was fascinating because when she began the FDA commissioner, it was only about two months before the rule that classified mercury fillings as a Category II, not a III (not the most worrisome products). And that’s what the consumer lawyers have been fighting.
I didn’t mention the consumer lawyers who have been fighting this issue for 23 years, filing suits and challenging rules that are issued and trying to push the FDA towards something more protective of the public.
And the dentists are in an interesting position as I started to say before. Some people have mercury allergies. So, if the dentist says to the patient when you come in and say, “Well, I want to put a mercury filling in because it’s cheaper and it will last longer,” and they argue. The other side argues that composite now lasts just as long (I don’t know who’s right). But the dentists, are they going to say to the patients, “Well, I need to give you a test. I need to stick a needle in your arm” or whatever they’re going to need, “stick some mercury on your skin to see whether you have a mercury allergy,” how’s that going to go over?
DEBRA: The part that I don’t understand is (and this comes up not just in mercury fillings, but in every single product), when you go to the dentist, the dentist says –
Oh, wait! Before I say this, I want to say, you may be wondering where the commercials are. We’re having no commercials today and it’s because of a technical thing. They’re repairing the commercial machine. So we’re going to just talk right through.
So what I was going to say is that the thing that seems so odd to me is that in this country (and probably in most industrial countries in the world), there’s no information on the product. There are very, very few, relatively few products that have warnings on the product or even reveal what the ingredients are. So if your dentist says to you, “I want to put in a silver filling.” That doesn’t sound very dangerous. It’s the least expensive one.
Now, the patient has no reason to know unless they’re listening to this show or reading things I’ve written or other people have written or what you’ve written. The patient has no idea that there’s anything wrong with those silver fillings, and they go, “Well, composite is 100 more. I’ll go with this silver filling.” Because they don’t have information, they don’t have a choice.
And so if instead the dentists were required by law to say, “I want to put in a filling. Now, here are your choices. You can have the least expensive one, which has mercury in it. And it’s evaporating, vaporizing mercury in your mouth 24 hours a day. And mercury, by the way, is a toxic substance. And here is some information about the health effects of those toxic substances…”
I just had a funny thought. I was just thinking about all those commercials on television for drugs where they play the beautiful music and people walk through the meadow and they say, “And the side effects are death.”
GREG GORDON: The side effects are death. If you’re listening, the side effects on maybe these commercials are just jaw-dropping. They’re really saying this? Well, they have to. They don’t like it, but they have to tell you that because it’s on the label.
DEBRA: Because it’s a drug.
Now, we get to teeth and fillings, and they don’t have that requirement. Their dentist doesn’t have to say, “Here are the health effects of these mercury fillings.”
I think if any right-minded person were to have the choices laid out for them, “These are choices of your dental fillings” and they were to see the health effects of mercury and they were to see that it’s only $100 more to not have to be poisoned by mercury and have $100,000 worth of medical bills later on after you spent 20 years having mercury fillings, then I think that that would be a better choice.
GREG GORDON: Well, there’s that issue. There are a number of issues about amalgam. One of them is apparently, the – I just learned this recently. But apparently, the amalgam, the alloy that the mercury is bound to expands and contracts with cold and heat or whatever (I don’t know how much the temperature in the mouth changes). But in any event, these amalgams have been blamed for cracking teeth.
So how much is it going to cost to repair a cracked tooth? And when the tooth is cracked, what does that do for the life of the tooth?
Obviously, what happens when the tooth has to come out in the end, it’s extremely expensive because then you’re getting an implant, which can cost $5000 a piece, I guess, the number I’ve heard.
That doesn’t mention the cost to society because when they’re using the mercury in their offices, they may have to dispose of it. And if they dispose of it properly, that’s another expense.
So you have all of these downstream costs and you’re going to quibble over 100 bucks? Well, it seems suspect. And one of the questions, of course, that has to leap to anybody’s mind who is paying attention to this is, “What happened at the Department of Health and Human
Services? And was there more to it?”
And I am unable to get there yet. I’m going to try. It’s not an easy answer to find because I will tell you that I did search the lobbying records of all of the American Dental Associations lobbying team, I’ll call them, the outside lobbyists that they hire in Washington because everybody here has a lobbyist. They have several.
And I went through all the reports during the timeframe that this issue came up. I don’t know exactly what year the Department of Health and Human Services rejected this, but I’m assuming that it was a long process and it dragged out.
So I couldn’t find any reference. And that’s partly due to the limitations of the lobbying laws, the disclosure was. If you are a lobbyist and you only make, once a year, a big, big guy, a former house majority leader, some senior member of Congress or a guy who is a heavyweight lobbyist in D.C. who’s got connections, you saunter over to the Department of Health and Human Services and have a sit down with one of the senior people, and you make your arguments to get in the door because of who you are –
There’s illegal about this. What’s frustrating is that when the lobbyists make their disclosure reports – one if they only made one meeting, but they’re full-time lobbyists, they attended one meeting on this one subject, they technically don’t have to disclose it because there has to be a time threshold that you devoted to a particular subject before you have to disclose. That’s number one. And two, you can do it in a vague way.
So I don’t know, but I’d be surprised, really surprised given the stakes for the dentists who want –
And let me say that what the dentists’ stakes are for a moment if I can. The dentists face potential lawsuits. I know that we all signed these releases for procedures in medical offices. Next time, I go to my dentist, I’m going to read the one that I signed if I have to. I probably have a standing one that’s in the office there. But how many rights we’re giving away in terms of seeking recourse against the dentist if he hurts you? There are ways around that if you’ve got a good trial lawyer, but they’re hard to do.
So the dentists’ stakes or they might face lawsuits from patients in the past. But they certainly will be on notice that they better not use this stuff unless it’s the only way to repair a tooth, with amalgam. And apparently, there are certain situations where amalgam is clearly the better option.
One of the problems is everybody in the country has a unique health profile. We have a lot going on in our bodies. And when toxins are introduced by ingestion or inhalation (and in this case, it’s inhalation), when they’re introduced, they may or may not be disposed of, excreted by the body.
There’s a scientist that I wrote about in one of the stories in Colorado who is doing cutting edge research. He’s figured out a lot. He estimates that 20% of the people in the United States who have had mercury amalgams placed in their teeth have some sort of impairment, as a result, to their health. They’re under stress is the way he would put it. They may not have any symptoms, but they’re under stress. And then, he estimates that 5% to 10% of those people are seriously ill. That is a staggering statistic if accurate.
And what does he base that on? Well, one, he developed a test to determine – it’s called the tri-test. He tests hair, blood and urine to determine – let me back up a second.
He figured out a way to distinguish between inorganic mercury (which is the mercury in your teeth if you have these fillings) and organic mercury (which is the mercury known as metal mercury that’s in fish). And then, he developed this tri-test for hair, urine and blood. He’s able, he says, to see how much inorganic mercury you have in your blood, in your urine. And organic mercury, interestingly, excretes also in your hair. You never find inorganic mercury in your hair. Only the mercury from fish can get in your hair. It’s interesting.
DEBRA: That’s interesting. That’s interesting to know.
GREG GORDON: I have no idea why. But in any event, if he’s right…
DEBRA: I can see he’s been so thorough about it.
GREG GORDON: He’s taken blood tests of over 10,000 people. And so, his projection of the potential number of Americans who are impaired is based on a pretty large sample.
Now, it’s hard to know how many of those people came to him because they thought they had a mercury problem, which would skew the results. I pushed down on that point, but I didn’t really get any answer.
He’s not a scientist who is publishing research, so he is not subject to a peer review. He’s running a company. His name is Chris Shade, S-H-A-D-E. His company is known as Quicksilver Scientific. Quicksilver being another name for mercury [inaudible 00:29:23] over the decades or centuries even, probably.
So you have this issue of possibly pioneering research indicating a way to find out if you are being harmed or if your body is actually processing the mercury okay. And he says probably 80% of the population who have mercury fillings is okay.
Now, how big is that population? Well, the US Public Health Services stopped tallying figures, but they actually did up until 2004. How many Americans have mercury fillings and how many in their teeth? It was just pretty amazing. The last number was 181 million.
So what’s 5% to 10% of 181 million? Well, that could be up to 18 million people that he says could be seriously ill. Most of them don’t know that it’s mercury that’s doing the damage, mercury being perhaps the most toxic chemical on the planet or the most dangerous except for maybe plutonium, a non-radiation toxin.
So a lot more research needs to be done and it’s unclear. I haven’t explored how much funding the NIH is throwing at this, but a lot more research needs to be done.
DEBRA: Are you familiar with the precautionary principle? The precautionary principle, do you know that?
GREG GORDON: I may know it, but I don’t know the term.
DEBRA: It’s called the precautionary principle and it states that if something is known to be harmful that one should be cautious about using it. And people apply that as a principle in different sciences.
GREG GORDON: Common sense.
DEBRA: It’s just common sense. It just seems like that throughout the government and manufacturing and everything, we should be looking at these chemicals. It’s not a question that mercury is toxic. It’s just not a question.
But what I think is so difficult about this for regulators to make a decision or a manufacturer to make a decision – I mean, it’s easy for me to make a decision about what I’m going to allow in my body because I can do the research, I can look at an article like yours and say, “Mercury fillings cause all these illnesses. I think I’m not going to take a chance.”
But I think that other people who making decisions for the world at large or a country or something, they can look at this and they can say, “Well, here’s a population of people who may not be affected at all. And here’s a population of people who may be affected somewhat. And then there’s a smaller amount that are really going to be affected and get really, really sick.”
And instead of giving us information that says, “Okay, here are mercury fillings. Some of you are not going to be affected. And some are going to get really sick. And we know this,”why not give people that information so that there can be a choice?
I think that they’re looking at, “Well, this population over here isn’t going to get sick. And so that’s what we’re going to base it on” instead of looking into people who are going to get really sick.
GREG GORDON: And I neglected to mention that two FDA outside advisory panels were pushing the agency to do more. This is somewhat unusual to my wits and given that we’ve read so much and seen so much about how when the FDA appoints an advisory panel, it seems like a lot of folks on the panel, they have conflicts of interest or they either worked for or still work for one of the companies that has a big stake in the subject or they’ve done research at a university and have been funded by that company. That’s probably more likely.
I think the very, very direct conflicts of interest are avoided for obvious reasons. But what you find when you dig into it is that there are hidden conflicts of interest that come into play. Most of us know that the scientific world, it’s cut-throat.
Researchers are trying to get money from the NIH. They compete with each other. You really have to be in the 85th, I think, percentile (that’s what it currently is) to get any money. And if you don’t get money from the government, what’s your option? You’re going to have to turn to industry, to the pharmaceutical industry, to the chemical industry, maybe it’s the dental products industry that’s funding your research. You need to put bread on the table, so you’re going to do that.
And some people do it for other reasons. I’m not saying that it’s always driven by not being able to get government money. But the point is, these panels are typically – you see exposés in the paper about this panel or that panel for the FDA, an outside panel that’s loaded up with people who have hidden conflicts of interest.
Yet here you have an FDA advisory panel that votes 15 to 7 (I said 15 to 6 in my story. It was actually 15 to 7) that they want the FDA to do more. They don’t accept the FDA’s write-up, white paper, on analyzing the health effects of mercury fillings.
Here, the FDA, its research is being spurn by its own outside advisory panel. So, the panel, that was in 2006 and then 2010. The FDA really got pushed in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health turned it around and actually does something. And then it gets shut down by HSS.
It’s, to me, startling. I’ve been here in Washington for 38 years and I don’t remember seeing many developments like this one at the FDA.
DEBRA: It seems to me like the priority is financial and that we have an FDA who, as you said at the beginning of the show, that their job is to find out what’s safe and what’s not safe and protect us and they can come up with a decision like this and then have the financial, a different agency, say, “Well, we can’t do this.” And so it all comes down to money. It doesn’t come down to health.
And I don’t see how we can create a healthy world unless health and the sustaining of the environment and those kinds of things are first.
And then, we see how to handle the finances.
GREG GORDON: That would be the idea, wouldn’t it?
DEBRA: It would be a very different world, wouldn’t it? But that’s what I apply in my own life.
GREG GORDON: When I came to Washington in 1977, Debra, it was a pretty sleepy town. Now, it’s a habiting place. There are neighborhoods after neighborhoods with these multimillion dollar homes. But you look around for industry – well, Exxon was here, but headquartered out in the Virginia suburbs. But they’re leaving on, I think, January 1st of next year.
The biggest industry in town, in this area, that’s boomed to population of four, five million people, six million (I don’t know the current population of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area), I can just tell you that it has been transformed over the last nearly four decades since I came here.
The biggest one, the biggest industry is lobbying. And while lobbyists convey a lot of valuable information, especially if there are two competing sides, both have equal access, they can make the arguments to inform and educate the member of Congress or regulatory person that they’re lobbying, one, when they have access and the other side doesn’t even know what’s going on, then the process is very tilted.
And so when you talk about toxic chemicals and changing the world, you really can’t do so, in my view, without bringing that into the discussion.
DEBRA: The lobbying?
GREG GORDON: Just the influence of the moneyed interest that you’re talking about. And that’s the manifestation of the money is the lobbying.
And these lobbyists get paid so much money. Some of them, basically, are people who just usher somebody else in. All they’re paid for is to enable that party to have access.
Going back to the FDA, when I came here, the FDA had this pristine reputation as being the premier regulator of public health and safety with respect to drugs and food products and so forth in the world. And typically, when the FDA approves something, that meant it was going to be approved quickly around the world.
Now, you look and you see that Norway and Sweden and Denmark, I believe, have all banned mercury amalgam. And there’s an international treaty called the Minamata Convention. It’s named, by the way, for a public health catastrophe that happened in the 1950s and early 60s in Japan at Minamata Bay. Along the coastline of that bay was a big chemical company and they dumped mercury along with other chemicals into the water for years and years and years.
The fish were heavily exposed to the mercury and got loaded up with the mercury. The fish-eating population surrounding the bay ate the fish. More than 1700 people died.
And so they named this treaty to try to get the nations of the world to eliminate mercury from use and to protect people everywhere from this horrible toxin.
The United States was the first country to sign it. It has prodded some action. The EU now has recommendation, I was just told yesterday, I think, phase out amalgam mercury fillings. And United States, there’s no teeth to this treaty. That’s what’s wrong with the treaty. It doesn’t have a timetable. It just says, “We agreed that we should get rid of mercury. Get rid of mercury.”
And it’s interesting because the President of the United States, Barak Obama, was a very strong advocate of getting rid of mercury during his brief time in the Senate. I think he spoke about it early in his presidency, publicly, and said, “We got to get mercury away from our children” or something like that. But yet, the FDA isn’t able to do anything because the HHS is in the way.
DEBRA: Well, I think that we need a big overhaul. We need a big overhaul in everything. I really see what the obstacles, why we continue to have toxic chemicals. The obvious question is, “If we know it’s toxic, why is it still on the market?” So many people have said, “Well, they wouldn’t sell it if it was toxic.”
There was just an article in a New York paper (I think the New York Post or something) where a woman was saying, “These people who are talking about toxics, they don’t know anything. We have government agencies that are protecting us. It would not be on the shelf if it wasn’t safe for us to use.” She actually said that. This was printed in a New York paper a month. This is still a prevalent idea. And yet, it’s just not true. It’s just not true.
GREG GORDON: Speaking of outspoken women, one of those who I interviewed is a remarkable lady named Freya Cose. She lives in suburb Western Philadelphia. She is the one who had a mercury filling put in, if I recall, by a doctor in New York who used an old formula where he actually mixed up –
Now, they come sort of premixed. But the dental industry likes to say they’re encapsulated, the mercury is encapsulated, which is debatable, at least debatable.
She had this dentist use liquid mercury where he actually mixed it in with a little powder of other metals before he put it in her mouth.
Seven days later, her big hobby in her life was going to the ballet and taking ballet lessons. She was at the ballet performance at the University of Pennsylvania. She felt a little dizzy. She walked out to her car, climbed in her car and suddenly, she saw multiple images of everything. And she sat there stunned, not knowing what was happening to her.
And finally, she figured out that if she closed one eye, she could see, so she drove herself home.
Well, this began as sort of an odyssey for her over the next year where she, really, over the next days, at the beginning, where she went on the internet, determined to find out what was happening to her because doctors were almost immediately diagnosing her with either lupus or multiple sclerosis.
And ultimately, she said at 3:20 in the morning on the fifth day as she was scouring the internet, she finds a posting by a woman in England who had written that she got a mercury filling. She had a mercury filling implanted in one of her teeth and a few days later, she got double vision. She sat there, her draw dropped and said, “Oh, my God! It might have been my mercury filling that caused this problem.”
And then she connected with mercury-free groups, groups of former mercury patients, campaigning, joining with the consumer lawyers in trying to get mercury out of dentistry. She had hers taken out. And what do you know? Her multiple sclerosis went away. She’s 73 years old now.
But one of the thing that she did along the way (which reflects her determination to do something about this) is to persuade the Philadelphia City Council to pass an ordinance requiring informed consent for all dental patients in the city, so that any patients who goes into a dental office in Philadelphia is told about the risks of mercury fillings.
DEBRA: That is so wonderful. And see, listeners, we can all do things like that. When we have this information, we can do things to make other people know about them and give other people choices so they know we’re not just walking around inadvertently, unknowingly, being poisoned and having experiences like this
Just because the government is not protecting us from these toxic chemicals doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be protecting ourselves. The information is there and we can make those decisions ourselves.
We only have just a couple of minutes left. We’ve been talking for almost an hour.
GREG GORDON: I’ve been talking a lot.
DEBRA: Yes, you have a lot of interesting things to say. So do you want to just give us some final thoughts for a couple of minutes?
GREG GORDON: Well, my big thought is that I hope to do more on this. But I’m also, right now, covering the Clinton e-mails and writing the story about the 10th anniversary of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina for our 48th page package that our paper down in Biloxi, Mississippi, is putting out.
But I hope to do more, so I hope that your listeners will plug into McClatchyDC.com and type in my name and look for stories about mercury fillings. I think there is a lot more to be done here. Without trying to take sides, I just think it’s really interesting what evolved during this rule-making process. It leaps out, there’s a strong possibility that there was some sort of influence that was wielded to persuade the Department of Health and Human Services to do what they did.
It may have been a totally pure process of cost benefit analysis and a hard decision to protect the poor. But those sorts of things are unlikely to me.
DEBRA: It seems unlikely to me as well. There could be things that – well, first of all, I think a lot of people who are poor, unless I’m mistaken, are now being covered by ObamaCare and so then would be covered by insurance. Also, people can learn to take care…
GREG GORDON: Does ObamaCare include dental insurance?
GREG GORDON: It does? Okay. I did not know.
DEBRA: Yes. In fact, I have some ObamaCare Insurance myself.
GREG GORDON: So you have it?
DEBRA: I have dental care.
GREG GORDON: That’s terrific.
DEBRA: I’m waiting until I use up my huge deductible and then they’ll pay for my dental work. But that’s another story.
Anyway, I think there are things that could be done to help the poor not be poisoned because all they can afford is mercury fillings.
Thank you so much. This has been so interesting for me. Please let me know when you have another article about mercury fillings or any other toxic chemicals.
GREG GORDON: I will endeavor to do that.
DEBRA: Thank you.
GREG GORDON: It’s been a pleasure to be on your show. Thanks very much.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you can find out more at ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. Be well.