Answer given by Ms Vassiliou on behalf of the Commission
The Commission carefully monitors scientific knowledge on dental amalgams and is committed to ensuring that its proposals in this area are based on the best scientific advice in keeping with the principles of excellence, independence and transparency.
The scientific opinion explains in detail the methodological approach applied by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (Scenihr) and the way in which it selected and took into account relevant available reports, articles and studies as well as the contributions provided during the public consultation (cf. chapters 3.2 and 5 respectively of the published opinion(1)). It is standard scientific practice that part of the relevant scientific literature concerning the possible health risks of a product be published in specialised professional journals, in the present case, a dentistry journal. As regards neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, the Scenihr considered several documents on the possible neurological effects of mercury amalgams as part of its opinion (cf. Bellinger et al. (2006), Bates et al. (2004), and Saxe et al. (1999), respectively on pages 26 and 30 of the published Opinion).
The possible risks of mercury in dental amalgams must be studied in a specific way, taking into account the exposure that may result for patients and professionals from this particular application. It poses specific problems related to its past use, presence in many patients’ teeth and possible exposure from its removal.
The Scenihr works in accordance with the principles of excellence and independence. The Committee as well as the working group dealing with the subject in question possess a sound expertise in the relevant areas, including toxicology, epidemiology and medical sciences. The Commission invites the Honourable Member to examine in particular the rules of procedure of the Scenihr(2), the profile of the Committee members(3) as well as the publications of the external experts which are easily accessible on the Internet.
The mandates posed to Scenihr cover an extensive area of expertise and disciplines. Therefore, the participation of external experts to Scenihr working groups is encouraged and applied according to the rules of procedure of the Scientific Committees. As stated in these rules, external experts do not participate in the process leading to the adoption of the opinion. Members of the Scenihr enjoy the exclusivity of adopting Scenihr opinions. They adopt opinions in Plenary.
With regard to the dental amalgam Working Group, six external experts have participated in the Working Group: two experts in toxicology — who are also members of the Scientific Committee on Health and Environment Risks (SCHER) — and four experts in dental sciences. All procedures regarding this working group — from the creation of the group and selection of external experts to the finalisation of the report for adoption by the Scenihr Plenary — have been done according to the established rules of procedure of the Scientific Committees.
The Commission considers it neither necessary nor appropriate to re-convene a group of scientists on the subject in question in the absence of new scientific evidence. Still, the Commission intends to monitor scientific developments in this area very closely.