Parliamentary question - E-4162/2008Parliamentary question

Use of mercury

by Claude Turmes (Verts/ALE)
to the Commission

The EU has decided to severely restrict the use of mercury because the metal is highly dangerous to human health and the environment. The Commission, however, took the decision to deal separately with dental amalgams and ask the SCENIHR committee to assess the potential health risks of mercury amalgam. The SCENIHR report was drawn up by four ‘house’ experts (SCENIHR and SCHER committees) and four representatives of the European dental profession, who were in favour of amalgam.

1. Out of the 190 published articles quoted in the report, 90 are taken from dental journals. Among the voluminous body of published literature exploring the link between mercury in dental amalgam and Alzheimer’s disease, only one study is quoted, the small-scale Saxe study produced by dentists. What method was used to compile this bibliography, which likewise appears to be one-sided?

2. Why did the Commission decide to treat mercury amalgam as a case apart? Will the mouths of European citizens be the last place where mercury may be stored once all its other uses — as is due to happen — have been abolished?

3. Do not ethical requirements imply that a scientific assessment should be conducted in complete independence by qualified experts? Why was it that no epidemiologist, toxicologist, immunologist, endocrinologist, or chemical toxicology expert specialising in the toxicity of mercury was called upon to take part?

4. The SCENIHR assessment visibly failed to consider both sides of the question: why was it that the only persons asked to assist were representatives of the dental profession in favour of the material that they were supposed to assess?

5. Given the vast public health issues at stake and the legitimate expectations of European citizens regarding democracy as applied to health, could the Commission set up a new expert working party in which, competent scientists, free from the influence of dental circles, would comply in every respect with the ethical rules in force (expertise, independence, and analysis and counter-analysis)?

OJ C 40, 18/02/2009