WASHINGTON -- A federal appeals court said Friday it could not force
the Food and Drug Administration to tighten restrictions on dental
fillings containing mercury.
Advocacy groups sought to ban the use of such fillings and to force
the FDA to classify them as risky, subjecting them to tougher
The groups say the fillings pose health risks to patients who inhale
mercury vapors and dental office employees who handle the materials.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
unanimously ruled that, while certain FDA actions can be appealed, the
court has no jurisdiction to review agency inaction.
The mercury mixture has stirred controversy since dentists began using
it to fill cavities in the 1800s. Significant levels of mercury
exposure can cause permanent damage to the brain and kidneys, but the
FDA has said for years that mercury fillings don't harm patients,
except in rare cases when they have allergic reactions.
Amalgam fillings are about 50 percent mercury, joined with silver,
copper and tin. Tens of millions of Americans receive mercury fillings
each year. Many doctors have begun switching to resin composite
fillings that blend better with the natural coloring of teeth.
Federal health officials began a new review of the safety of the
fillings last year.
Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press