The fate of dentistry’s most controversial procedure: the use of mercury-based dental fillings, known as amalgam, is set to be decided on in Europe.
It is condemned as a risk for “secondary poisoning” by a European Commission scientific advisory body because it gets into fish that people eat. Furthermore, the Commission’s health advisory committee has recommended a ban on its use in fillings in children and pregnant women.
Representatives from the three European institutions, namely the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, will meet on 6 December to discuss the text of the EU regulation on mercury, including its use in dentistry. Europe is the largest amalgam user in the world, and consumer, health and environmental NGOs, as well as many dentists, are calling for a ban.
Why is the UK government now backtracking on this promise?
Rebecca Dutton of the UK patient support group Mercury Madness said:
“Britain in 2012, through a letter from the Chief Dental Officer to the British Dental Association, announced that as of 2016, amalgam use would be discouraged and would be used only if it met one of four exceptions. Why is the UK government now backtracking on this promise? In a public consultation organised by the European Commission, 88% of participating Europeans recommended phasing out amalgam and 12% called for its use to be phased down. Since the Commission sought the vote of the people, why doesn’t it follow their advice?”
Dentists once heavily used amalgam, but are abandoning it in droves with several Member States either disallowing its use (i.e. Sweden) or reducing it to less than 5% of all dental fillings (for example, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands).
British dentist Dr Graeme Munro-Hall said:
“British dentists increasingly realise that the end is near for amalgam. Alternatives are available, affordable, and effective. It is time for the UK to say good-bye to amalgam, a material clearly inferior to composite or ionomers.”
The environmental impact of dental amalgam is significant, impacting on air, water and land, and being taken up in the fish eaten by Europeans.
Elena Lymberidi-Settimo of the European Environment Bureau said:
“An ambitious regulation is needed to reduce the use of mercury in the EU and phase it out of dentistry. Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of ending amalgam by 2022 (with special allowances for medical reasons) with a ban sooner for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children. We agree – over 66% of dental fillings in the EU are now made without mercury and it is now time that this becomes the norm.”
The European Commission has also turned its back on the opinion of the European public.
Philippe Vandendaele of Health Care Without Harm said:
“Mercury is globally one of the 10 chemicals of major public health concern, yet the Commission proposes we maintain the status quo. Empirical evidence shows that due to technological changes and dentist training, the cost of mercury-free dentistry is declining, so the price differential continues to shrink.”
Indeed, the claim that amalgam is slightly cheaper than alternatives is illusory.
Johanna Hausmann of Women in Europe for a Common Future, added:
“When amalgam’s disastrous impact on the environment is factored in, amalgam’s costs are as much as €82 more per filling than composite. Continuing the use of amalgam does not even make economic sense.”
A growing consensus is that Europe must, at the very least, ban amalgam use for children and pregnant women.
Genon Jensen, Health & Environmental Alliance (HEAL) said:
“We must first protect those most vulnerable to mercury’s neurotoxicity – the developing brains of children, babies, and foetuses. Several nations, such as Germany, the UK and Poland, have already announced that they don’t use or that dentists should not use amalgam for children or pregnant women.”
Members of the European Parliament Michèle Rivasi (France), Stefan Eck (Germany) and Piernicola Piedicini (Italy) are circulating petitions in four languages to ban amalgam in Europe. Signatories have already exceeded 17,000 names.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations
In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.
These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.
Review of the new report
The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.
The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.
The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.
“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”
Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street
The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.
One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.
The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.
This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.
The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.