We foil dental association attempt to remove neurological warnings from city fact sheet
In a ringing defeat for the American Dental Association, the Philadelphia Board of Health rejected the ADA’s strong-armed lobbying tactics and retained neurological warnings on the city’s fact sheet, at its meeting on May 13. The victory was doubly-important because the Food and Drug Administration asked the City to hold off weakening the fact sheet’s language. Freya Koss organized a terrific local strategy and grassroots effort, while here in Washington we did the same at the national level.
The state and city fact sheet laws in America stand as a testament to the power of the fully informed consumer: disclosure of the mercury and its neurological risks to consumers can mark the beginning of the end of amalgam. In Philadelphia, the fact sheet was working. The pro-mercury dentists were complaining that the fact sheets were interrupting the operation of their “drill-fill-and-bill” dental factories. The fact sheet made it necessary for these cut-rate dentists actually to talk to parents – and try to convince them that implanting a neurotoxin in their children’s bodies was a good thing. Of course, many parents are outraged.
As the battle opened in America’s fourth-largest city in February, the stakes for both sides were enormous. While we fought for consumers’ right to know that amalgam contains a risky neurotoxin, the pro-mercury dentists asked the City of Philadelphia to throw out the neurological warnings in order to keep parents uninformed – and to keep their socially irresponsible businesses running profitably. Then in a power grab of both moral depravity and dubious legality, the Pennsylvania Dental Association endorsed cutting off all dental care to children with disabilities if their parents refused to consent to amalgam.
Board of Health members -- perhaps intimidated, perhaps in the pocket of the state dental association -- appeared poised to cave in and eviscerate the fact sheet. Of course, such a move would have emboldened the ADA to wreck fact sheets coast-to-coast. Seeking cover, the Board’s chair said he would contact his friend Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein at FDA.
So we began a national campaign to deter FDA from wrecking state fact sheets – and we succeeded! Our best argument: President Obama’s Executive Order directing federal agencies to respect state and local consumer protection laws. At that May 13 meeting, the Philadelphia health board chairman announced that FDA requested he remove no warnings from the fact sheet. We won several other important victories. The Board promised it would make no clandestine attempts to change the fact sheet without public hearings. The dentist member of the Board of Health -- a pro-mercury dentist who appears to read from a script handed to her by the ADA -- excused herself from the meeting altogether, appropriately recusing herself from future considerations of the issue. Furthermore, the Board publicly condemned dentists who were misrepresenting the fact sheet as a consent form for amalgam and then denying treatment when parents refused to sign.
Thanks to our outstanding Philadelphia team, led by Freya Koss, we successfully defended our rights from the ADA attack! Our advocates showed up in force for the Board of Health meetings. We had more dentists on our side at the May 13 meeting than the ADA did. Even mercury-free dentists who couldn’t come submitted letters of support. We plastered the meeting room with our posters (which we held up during the meeting) and distributed flyers with the neurological warning. Luke McConnell taped the February Board meeting. Judy and Al Roberson broadened our coalition by alerting disability rights advocates; we were delighted when we gained help from Barb Dively of the Acquired Brain Injury Network of Pennsylvania, then from German Parodi of Disabled in Action of PA. We appreciated everyone’s hard work on this project.
We are not done with the Pennsylvania Dental Association -- far from it. With manifest evidence of discrimination against the disabled, we are continuing to pursue justice for the children with disabilities who have been denied dental care under the PDA’s policy of strong-arming parents into consenting to amalgam.
17 May 2010
Charles G. Brown, National Counsel
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210, Washington, DC 20002
Ph. 202.544-6333; fax 202.544-6331
Working for Mercury-Free Dentistry