HARTFORD — A southwestern Connecticut naturopathic physician is among the plaintiffs who filed suit Monday attacking a ruling exempting dental fillings from a statewide ban on mercury.
Adam Breiner, N.D., of Fairfield, whose naturopathic medical office is in Trumbull, said the use of mercury in so-called amalgam tooth fillings is too dangerous to accept a Sept. 8 ruling by state Environmental Commissioner Gina McCarthy.
"This is for all the people in Connecticut, my patients and myself," said Breiner, who is spokesman for the Coalition to Enforce Connecticut's Zero Mercury Law. "Anyone who is walking around with mercury fillings is putting their own health at risk."
He said that the heavy metal in many cases is secreted by the human body and ends up in the environment. "When the [state Department of Environmental Protection] came out with this ruling, obviously it was not what we're looking for," said Breiner, who has been in practice for three years and whose father is a mercury-free dentist.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in New Britain Superior Court, consumer advocates and health professionals charged that mercury is a well-known poison and a major hazard to state waterways because it isn't captured in dental offices.
The group said there are many substitutes for mercury-amalgam fillings.
Plaintiffs include Consumers for Dental Choice, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Leonard Kundel, a Stamford dentist; and Dana Herbert of New Hartford and Nory Oakes of Voluntown, who claim they sustained mercury poisoning.
The group seeks a declaratory judgment overturning McCarthy's decision.
DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said Monday that the commissioner investigated the issue thoroughly following legislation that allowed her to decide whether the mercury-amalgam fillings should be included in the state's ban.
"Our detailed study and analysis of the statute and the legislative debate involved in its passage clearly shows that the law did not intend to ban the use of mercury for amalgam fillings," Schain said.
He said McCarthy's ruling was not a position on whether mercury amalgam should be used, but rather on whether the fillings are covered by the state's anti-mercury law.
The 1990 law ordered that after July 1, 2004, products with more than 250 parts per million of mercury could no longer be sold in the state. Amalgam fillings are 50 percent mercury, the plaintiffs charged.
The heavy metal has been linked with brain damage.
"The Connecticut zero mercury law clearly bans dental mercury," said Douglas Cohen, the Hartford-based lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The DEP just got it wrong." "Every time a dentist installs mercury in someone's mouth, some of the excess is washed down the dentist's drain and eventually into our waterways," Breiner said. "If we care about protecting our environment, we must stop dentists from increasing mercury pollution."
Ken Dixon, who covers the Capitol, can be reached at (860) 549-4670.