US Government Gets a “D” for Handling of Lead in Dental Products

Let’s Not Talk About the Lead in Your Dental Work

As the lead scandal heats up and everyone tries to dodge responsibility, it’s a war between acronyms!

Lead Scandal Report Card
Org: Grade: Comments:
FDA D- The FDA is supposed to prevent this
CDC D “It’s not our problem,” whines the CDC
ADA B+ They step up while the government stays silent
NADL C Protecting patients, or protecting labs?
WBNS A A TV station is the best source of info

It all started with WBNS-TV. Earlier this year, the Ohio television station broke the story of a woman who allegedly suffered lead poisoning from her dental bridge. After ordering several dental crowns from dental labs in China, the investigative team reported finding levels of lead as high as 210 ppm.

A juicy scandal, the story was picked up nationally. China was already been receiving bad publicity for quality problems with a number of exports. First there was toxic antifreeze in pet food, cough syrup and toothpaste. Next there was lead paint on children’s toys. Most recently, stocks of the pharmaceutical Heparin manufactured in China have been recalled. Contaminants in the blood-thinning drug have killed over a dozen people and seriously injured hundreds more.

So the story has been receiving more and more media attention. The only problem is, no one yet knows the scope of the problem. WBNS has reported finding lead in 10 of the 13 crowns they have tested to date. Right now, any number of organizations are conducting their own tests. However, few results have been released.

The public is left with a number of unanswered questions:

  1. Is lead-tainted dental work a major problem?
  2. Who will tell us the scope of this problem?
  3. Whose job is it to protect the public from this kind of problem?

Such simple questions… such complicated answers!

Let’s take a look at the acronyms involved in this blame game. I’ve also graded each according to how well they’re handling this developing story.

ADA (American Dental Association)
Grade: B+

Though the ADA is conducting their own investigation, the organization has not released any results. (Moreover, it’s rumored that they won’t be released until 2009.)

The ADA has written letters to both the FDA and CDC about this topic. The responses indicate that neither governmental health agency is eager to step into the fray. With no one else willing to step up, the ADA seems to be left holding the bag. (Read more)

FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
Grade: D-

Looking at the FDA’s website, you’d never know there was a lead contamination scandal going on. Their website provides no consumer information whatsoever on this issue.

Inresponse to the initial news report, the FDA said only, “We are reviewing this report and developing a strategy to get additional information on this incident and on all imported dental devices. We will apply resources as needed to move forward with a regulatory strategy consistent with what we find.”

Let’s take a moment to note that it was supposed to be the FDA’s job in the first place to regulate dental products to keep out nasty things like lead.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
Grade: D

The CDC’s website is likewise mum on the topic of lead-contaminated dental work. Their correspondence with the ADA suggests that the CDC feels this issue falls under the purview of the FDA, or maybe the ADA:

“The FDA has regulatory authority over dental products,” the CDC wrote to the ADA. “It is our understanding that the FDA is already acting on this information…” The letter continues, “It is our understanding that testing for potential leaching of lead from these products is being conducted in ADA laboratories. CDC would be happy to assist ADA in interpreting the health impact of the testing of dental porcelains/meals that is currently underway. CDC will also provide any support if requested from the FDA, as that agency conducts further testing of these products.”

NADL (National Association of Dental Labs)
Grade: C+

The NADL’s website provides information on this topic only to its members. The dental laboratory organization has created a consumer website,What’s in Your Mouth?, that provides very little actual information.

The NADL raises several points: (1) US dental labs are safe. (2) Most US labs don’t use work manufactured overseas. (3) Plenty of overseas labs are perfectly safe too. (4) The NADL has provided a number of specific suggestions to the FDA regarding improving regulation of dental products and labs.

WBNS-TV (Ohio’s Channel 10)
Grade: A

The station’s investigative team first broke the story, and they have continued to be one of the top sources of information on this developing scandal. No other resource has made public as much scientific data as WBNS-TV: not the government, not the ADA, not the NADL.

On February 28, WBNS reported on their initial tests; the station found high levels of lead in one crown from a Chinese dental lab. The results of theirfollow-up tests, released on April 24, suggest the problem could be even larger than initially suspected. In these tests, high levels of lead were found in crowns manufactured in the US, Thailand and China. Overall, 10 of the 13 crowns (from three different countries of origin) tested positive for lead.

WBNS has informed The Wealthy Dentist that their research shows the problem is with porcelain crowns; the metal does not appear to contain lead. It is still unclear if the lead is contained within the dental porcelain or added via a stain of some sort.

What do you think? Post your comments

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.


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