Saturday May 6, 2006
And now here’s the news they didn’t tell you. You might remember the scare stories about mercury fillings from the past two decades: they come around every few years, usually accompanied by a personal anecdote, where fatigue, dizziness and headaches are all vanquished with the removal of the fillings by one visionary dentist. Traditionally these stories conclude with a suggestion that the dental establishment may well be covering up the truth about mercury, and a demand for more research into its safety.
Well, the first large scale randomised control trials on the safety of mercury fillings were published just two weeks ago, and I’ve been waiting to see these hotly awaited results pop up in the newspapers, but nothing doing so far. They studied more than 1,000 children, some were given mercury fillings and some mercury-free fillings. Then they measured kidney function and various neurodevelopmental outcomes such as memory, coordination, nerve conduction, IQ, and so on, over several years. There were no significant differences between the two groups.
Panorama did an excellently chilling documentary in 1994 called The Poison in Your Mouth. It opened with dramatic footage of men in full protective gear rolling around barrels of mercury. As far as I am aware there is no Panorama documentary in the pipeline covering the startling new research data suggesting that mercury fillings may not be harmful after all. In the UK there is not a single newspaper article to be found. Not a word on this massive landmark study, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
And in other news you didn’t read: “electrosensitivity”. This is a popular worry, with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and headaches. A few months ago the Sunday Times and the Mail ran long stories explaining that the government was about to publish a report which would finally acknowledge that electrical interference from household objects really did cause the symptoms.
When it was published, the report in fact said that there were people who believe that their own symptoms were caused by electrical fields, but very little evidence that the fields could cause symptoms. This is an important finding, and in many ways an incredibly interesting one, but it’s a completely different story. Meanwhile the original articles spread like wildfire over the internet, as the electrosensitivity lobby understandably interpreted them as final vindication and proof of their fears, and by the government itself.
Â· Please send your bad science to firstname.lastname@example.org