(This was posted by Patrick Sullivan Jr.)
I flew from Phoenix to Philadelphia last Thursday to attend a protest demonstration on Friday outside the downtown convention center where thousands of dentists were attending the annual American Dental Association meeting. The purpose of the protest, organized by Pennsylvania Coalition for Mercury-Free Dentistry and supported by Consumers for Dental Choice, was two-fold. First, to help promote awareness among the citizens of Philadelphia that "silver fillings" are 50% mercury. And second, to show the ADA that as consumers, we will no longer stand for their gag rule that hinders dentists from allowing patients to give informed consent when deciding which dental filling material to use.
(Hint, it should NEVER be mercury!)
First a few pictures...Here you can see the entrance to the Philadelphia Convention Center, pre-rally.
During the rally, there were protesters on both sides of the street. By my estimate, there were about 30 or 40 protesters, most of whom were wearing green shirts. This obviously wasn't a big group, but in my opinion, there were definitely enough of us to be noticed. In the 2 hours that we were outside, I would estimate that 2,000 - 3,000 dentists walked through that entrance and hundreds of Philadelphians walked by. (More on my discussions with several dentists later in the post.)
Along with our green "smoking tooth" T-shirts, we had a lot of signage. I thought this "head in the sand" sign was particularly good at helping to remind dentists that when the lawsuits begin, as they inevitably will, the ADA has stated quite emphatically that they have no liability to protect/defend amalgam use. (Read the orange box in this post.)
After the protest, the group marched to Philadelphia City Hall for a press conference. (More on this in a different post.)
The entire event made the local evening news for Philadelphia ABC 6. I think the coverage was fair and balanced. And it helped to accomplish objective number 1. (Sorry, but as of Monday afternoon, the story had not been transcribed for their website.)
The media coverage of the rally and press conference was actually decent -- and by that I mean there were reporters and camera crew in attendence at both events * -- but I think the PR firm did a HORRIBLE job of handling the media personel to make sure that the dissenting view got fair coverage. Case in point, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a 343-word, 95% pro-mercury, pro-ADA story. (BugMeNot.com to get past the registration.) Not well done at all.
I spoke to about 20 or 25 individual dentists as they passed by heading for the convention center. Here are my statistically invalid observations.
- Much to my surprise, close to 12 or 13 of the dentists said something like, "We haven't been using amalgams for the last 10 years." Essentially, voluntary discontinuation, for which I thanked them.
- 5 or 6 dentists added, "Please educate consumers because I make more money putting in alternatives." Somewhat greedy, but OK I guess. Money can be a darn good motivator!
- 2 or 3 dentists whispered under their breath to me, "Thanks for doing this, the ADA's lawyers won't let us tell customers about it." No kidding...that's why we are against the gag rule on dentists!
- 3 or 4 dentists that argued with me that mercury amalgams are just fine. One older dentist just yelled "IDIOTS!" at me at walked away. I did argue for about 3 minutes with a military dentist. I could barely get a word in with him and he appeared to have a good grasp on the supposed science. My rebuttal, once I finally had a chance to speak was, "You have to admit that this is a controversial topic and there is much science that calls into question the safety of mercury amalgams, no? So if there is even a suspicion of danger, and there are safe alternatives, shouldn't the precautionary principle apply?" His answer was that my side's science was bad and that there wasn't a controversy. Since he had a pretty good grasp of the "facts" and loved to talk, I offered to walk 20 feet away and get one of our scientists that were at the rally so the two of them could debate right then and there. That was when he instantly backed down and started walking away claiming instead that the ADA has their scientists and it's their job to do the debating. Thanks for poisoning our military, sir!
- There was an untold number of passer-by's who didn't say anything, wouldn't take any of our fliers, etc. They were obviously very uncomfortable with the fact that we were there and absolutely did NOT want to talk. (And I was even wearing a shirt and tie! It was my first protest, what do you expect?)
- At the same time, there were quite a few people walking by that took our pictures. I don't know if that's good or bad?
- While standing on the sidewalk protesting and on our 3 block "march" to city hall, I personally heard about half a dozen regular people say things like, "There's mercury in there?" and "I've got those in my mouth right now, are they bad?" Have a flier ma'am/sir.
All in all, the event was pretty good and the rain didn't start coming down until the last sign was shoved into the back of the car. PERFECT timing. (Thanks Mom! ;-) But it's obvious by the press coverage that we've got a long way to go before the ADA will break -- which is HIGHLY unlikely to happen and probably will never happen without litigation -- and before consumers are made aware of the danger that is leaking out of their "silver fillings."
Related Post on Pat Sullivan Blog: Mercury Toxicity & National Amalgam Awareness Week
UPDATE 10/12/05: Dr. Markus posts a few more pictures and has more commentary here. You'll note in his entry that Dr. Buttar, Dr. Geier, and David Geier -- all despised by the anti-mercury/autism crowd -- were all at the press conference in Philadelphia. I did not mention this in this blog post because I wanted to write a separate entry about it. Unfortunately, a few work projects have been getting in the way of blogging again. ;-) I promise to write about my encouter and discussions with each of them ASAP.
* UPDATE 10/12/05 12:56pm PST: I added the disclaimer ("and by that I mean there were reporters and camera crew in attendence at both events") because after re-reading my own writing, one might mistakenly think that I am saying that I thought the press coverage was favorable. The ABC 6 evening news piece was fair, but the Inquirer story was awful.
UPDATE 10/14/05 9:48am PST: The transcript of the story by Philadelphia ABC 6 has been posted here. I mentioned previously on this post that I thought the story was fair and balanced. Reading back through the transcript, I think I've changed my mind.
Some 30-thousand people are expected in Philadelphia this weekend, for the American Dental Association annual conference. Tonight, health reporter Anita Brikman looks at an issue that has dogged dentists for years, and is drawing controversy this weekend as well.
As thousands of dental professionals made their way into the Pennsylvania Convention Center today. They were greeted by a band of protestors passionate about their cause... Mercury in amalgam fillings.
Freya Koss/Mercury-Free Advocate "I am advocating that people know that their fillings are not silver they are mercury, the 2nd most neurotoxic element, it doesn't belong in anyone's body."
Freya Koss believes mercury poisoning from amalgam caused her MS and Lupus. She had her fillings removed.
Dr. Kimberly Harms/ADA: "The science keeps telling us time and time again, (there's) no reason to take them out."
Both sides agree on one thing, some mercury vapor gets out. But they're at odds on whether it causes harm.
"You breathe that mercury daily. It is going to affect your brain."
Dr. Fred Eichmiller/ADA: "When chewing on amalgam you can release very small amounts of vapor. But it is well below levels that have even been shown to have any kind of health effect."
It's estimated about 30 percent of fillings put in today are silver amalgam, far less than just a few years ago. But dentists say safety is not the issue.
"Patients want tooth colored materials and we have so many more choices."
And that, says Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, is something ALL patients should know. Today at City Hall, she discussed her bill that would require Philadelphia dentists to post information about mercury in amalgam and cavity filling alternatives.
Blondell Reynolds Brown/Council At Large: "We want there to be a universal practice that dentists tell you- you really do have an option."