Monday, April 7, 2014

Testimony to MA Executive Office of Health and Human Services - December 10, 2012

Laura Henze Russell, Principal, 
Hidden River Health Challenge
December 10, 2012

I am Laura Henze Russell, founder of Hidden River Health Challenge, a mercury poisoned survivor working to improve our health and reduce chronic diseases by promoting mercury free dentistry and supportive health care. We work for health education, better dental insurance plans, and rebooting health and dental systems through education, advocacy, and moving people and markets.  We are reaching out to develop a collaborative agenda for change and to organize innovative research challenges and demonstrations to reduce health disparities.

For 20 years I had chronic pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and balance problems that were diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Between March 2011 and March 2012, I had a year of acute escalating health problems that a dozen specialists could not diagnose. I gave up hope. Then, by the grace of God, one of my doctors heard a presentation at a conference that symptoms like mine could be caused by a toxicity reaction to dental materials. Small amounts of mercury vapor escape from fillings with heat and abrasion. People with certain gene types do not clear mercury well, so develop health problems over time. I was able to get treated and get healthy again by removing the amalgam and following a detoxification protocol.

There are two new breaking studies released in September and October 2012:
1.   James Woods and team at U of Washington retracted earlier findings of amalgam safety in children and found that boys of a certain gene type have significant neurobehavioral deficits and kidney damage.
2.  Thomas Duplinsky of Yale Medical School found that dentists compared to matched controls have significantly higher prescription use in neurological, psychiatric, cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

This is new information and I would like to help other people in Massachusetts who have chronic illnesses, health problems, premature aging, memory deficits, mood swings or other health problems due to the hidden river of mercury in our bodies learn about this risk and regain health.

I have been working as a volunteer for 9 months to research mercury dental amalgam toxicity in the U.S.  I attended the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology Conference in MN, the U.S. CDC Health Statistics Conference in DC, and a symposium in CT, and am in contact with biologic dentists, scientific researchers, injured patients and advocates across the U.S. 

I am working with legislators and committee chairs at the State House to develop bills and budget items for the upcoming session, and have begun discussions with national funders on demonstration projects, and ask DPH and EOHHS to be a leader and partner in these efforts.

Action Agenda on Mercury Amalgam Illness

1.      Determine the Scope of the Problem of Dental Mercury Poisoning and Public Awareness
  •       Hold public hearings around the state to get input from injured patients and their family members, and health and dental professionals.
  •       Set up a patient registry and reporting mechanism at the Betsy Lehman Center and DPH Center for Health Information and Analysis.
  •       Call for FDA Adverse Events Form 3500 Reporting to be mandatory by dentists and doctors for adverse reactions to dental materials and oral medical devices.
  •       Develop pamphlets for patients, doctors, dentists, nurses and other health professionals, and targeting high risk groups which include older adults, military and veterans, Native Americans, and low-income people. Why the military? High usage, and greater at risk of heat and abrasion. For example, soldiers face greater risk of mercury off gassing through abrasion of teeth from traveling on dirt roads and combat related injuries, as well as desert heat.
  •       Utilize the MA Prevention and Wellness Trust to investigate and educate to mitigate health disparities from amalgam toxicity, with a special focus on higher risk populations who have a higher incidence and cumulative body burden of mercury amalgam.
2.      Specific Informed Consent and Health Warnings
  • Reform MA Dental Code sections 515 and 517 to provide for specific informed consent for dental fillings, and reporting for morbidity, not just mortality, for dental procedures.
  • Include warnings to patients similar that dentists get from manufacturers under FDA’s Class II Special Controls Guidance Document for Mercury and Dental Amalgam.
  • Develop an informational brochure for patients as Connecticut did by executive action.
  • Include information on materials and potential side effects, similar to prescription drugs.
  • Include recommendations for patch testing, as required by FDA for hair color products.
  • Include recommendations for biocompatibility blood tests for dental materials.
3.      Dental Insurance Reform
  • Require dental plans be cost-neutral for alternatives to amalgam outside of the "smile area".
  • Require dental plans to cover remediation when medically necessary.
  • Flexible spending account for dental work as a pre-tax alternative to dental insurance.
4.      Structural Solutions

       A Blue Ribbon Commission can sink its teeth into these issues and consider how health care and dental insurance systems and medical and dental records can be better integrated to promote health and reduce chronic diseases.

·     Examine ways to update screening standards, such as periodic heavy metals and toxics screens, covering provoked urine testing to determine body burden, screenings before pregnancy and behavioral health referrals, and for concussion patients and returning soldiers.

·     Promote biologic dentistry, which integrates dentistry and health based on evidence-based research, similar to ways to promote clean and green energy and energy conservation industries.

·     End the FDA logjam on dental amalgam by calling on the President and Congress to direct FDA to follow the recommendations of its Scientific Advisory Panels in 2006 and 2010 to restrict its use in young children, pregnant women, and people with a known “allergy” to mercury.

We can save money and bend the cost curve down by stopping poisoning people who lose the gene lottery, and pay a heavy price as they age. This will have spinoff effects that can also help reduce costs of long term care, unemployment, lost tax revenues, and special education. Thank you.

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