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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dental nurses affected by mercury

New Zealand

Dental nurses who decades ago prepared amalgam fillings may have suffered as a result.

A new study suggests exposure to the mercury may have affected their health, making them four times more likely to have had a hysterectomy.

The melting of mercury pellets to make amalgam fillings was commonplace last century, and in the 1970s dental nurses handled it around 10 times a day.

Massey University Psychology Researcher Dr Linda Jones says the practice was abandoned in the mid-seventies due to concerns over toxic vapours.

"It was only when some Auckland women raised the issue that it was explored more by the Ministry of Health," says Jones.

Massey University research has now shed new light on how potentially dangerous it was.

A study compared 43 former dental therapists to similar-aged women in a control group who were not exposed. It showed 25% of the dental therapists have had hysterectomies - four times the rate of non-exposed women of the same age.

It also showed they had suffered more headaches, tremors, sleep disturbances, anxiety and metallic taste problems.

Jones says the symptoms may not even show themselves until women get older.

"The shaking, the unsteadiness and the perhaps mood problems are the sort of problems that you may see gradually increasing as the women age," says Jones.

Mercury is still used in fillings, but it is mixed by machines, and the levels are much lower and safer.

See original article

Posted by Becca

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