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News / April 15, 2013

New question marks over amalgam mercury test

by Guy Hiscott

A common test used to determine mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings may significantly overestimate the amount of the toxic metal released by them, scientists claim.
Many scientists agree that dental amalgam fillings slowly release mercury vapour into the mouth. But both the amount of mercury released and the question of whether this exposure presents a significant health risk remain controversial.
Public health studies often make the assumption that mercury in urine can be used to estimate exposure to inorganic mercury vapour from amalgam fillings and use mercury in hair to estimate exposure to organic mercury from a person’s diet.
But a study from the University of Michigan suggests that these assumptions may be incorrect, and that urine samples may contain both organic and inorganic mercury.
‘This is an important consideration for studies seeking to determine the health risks of mercury vapour inhalation from dental amalgams,’ said Joel D Blum, a co-author of the paper and a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.