By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
Peppermint Patty would be horrified. Lucy would scream bloody murder. But Charlie Brown is here to save the day from evil dentists who are filling our faces with evil contaminants. Brown is the legal counsel for the Coalition to Abolish Mercury Dental Fillings, a group of dentists, physicians and environmentalists who oppose the use of mercury-based dental fillings. Who knew that the so-called "silver" fillings we've all been dragging around in our molars are in fact poisoning our systems with mercury? Although the American Dental Association thinks he and his clients are full of hot air, Brown's not sleeping until he convinces the Arizona Legislature to pass a bill banning the use of nasty mercury fillings in the unsuspecting noggins of poor slobs like you and me.
New Times: I'm sorry. I just, you know, have to ask. Is Charlie Brown your real name?
Charlie Brown: Charles G. Brown. Charlie. Yeah, they call me Charlie Brown.
NT: The Coalition to Abolish Mercury Dental Fillings has drafted a bill opposing the use of toxic mercury in our mouths. Has the bill been voted on yet?
Brown: No. It was voted out of committee in the House, so it has to be redrafted, because the Speaker opposed the ban of mercury. But he agreed to support a disclosure bill. So we're going to rewrite it as a bill that would ban dentists from calling this stuff silver. That's the starting point.
NT: It does seem sort of misleading to call mercury fillings "silver fillings." All these years I thought I had a mouthful of precious metal, and instead my mouth is a toxic waste dump.
Brown: It's intentionally misleading. Anyone trained in science knows you don't call something by its second most common ingredient, but by its first. To call them mercury-silver fillings would be okay, or just mercury fillings. But not to mention the mercury at all is hiding something. Think of a pregnant woman in a dentist's chair. "We're now going to put mercury in your mouth!" Hopefully she'd jump out of the chair and run.
NT: You've targeted pregnant women as a high-risk group.
Brown: Pregnant women and children. Minority groups and low-income adults are also high-risk. The average middle-class white adult thinks his dentist doesn't use mercury fillings anymore. But it's cheaper to use mercury, and it's quicker to put in a mercury filling. So for kids -- who you want to get in and out of the dentist chair quickly -- and for low-income adults, there's no choice but mercury fillings.
NT: Maybe you're being too hard on these guys. Maybe dentists are just using shorthand when they refer to mercury fillings as "silver."
Brown: It's not shorthand. When the American Dental Association puts out brochures about "silver fillings," there's a definite intent to deceive. They want to hide the ball.
NT: So I have a toxic mouth?
Brown: Yes. When that stuff comes out of your mouth, there's only one place where it can go, and that's into a hazardous waste bag. It can't go down the drain; it must be taken away in one of those red bags. That's how toxic it is. And this is a fact that's hidden from the American people.
NT: That we're letting dentists put the world's most toxic non-radioactive element into our heads.
Brown: It's not only the most toxic, it's the most volatile. It continually leaks into your system; it comes off in a continuous vapor that leeches into your brain. There are numerous health hazards here. Here's proof: You can spill a lot of different substances like lead or arsenic, and you have to clean it up. But if you spill mercury, you have to call in the astronauts to come clean it up.
NT: Then why are dentists using this stuff?
Brown: In part because it's cheaper. And because it's always been there. In the 19th century, doctors of the mouth couldn't use mercury because it was considered malpractice to do so, but it was easy to work with. It was drunk for syphilis. The Lewis and Clark expedition? Many of those men drank mercury to cure syphilis. They came back to St. Louis healthy as horses, but they all died in their 30s.
NT: Well. At least my toxic fillings will protect me from social diseases. The American Dental Association supports the use of mercury fillings. They gave it their "seal of acceptance."
Brown: And they have no basis for it. They've never done a study, and they've never found them safe. It's an economic decision. It's just a good way to make money with dentistry: Drill, fill and bill.
NT: But how is the ADA making money? Because they hold the patent on mercury fillings?
Brown: Their patent is expired. It's the use of the ADA endorsement that makes the money. Every manufacturer of dental fillings wants the ADA seal, so the manufacturer writes them a check for that privilege. It's a strategic move economically, but not related at all to the value of the product.
NT: It's a conspiracy!
Brown: It's not unfair to call it a conspiracy.