By Bob Condor

Toothsome news for natural medicine practitioners who have long warned about the potential health dangers of mercury-inclusive fillings in our mouths: The Food and Drug Administration admitted possible serious risks to pregnant women, children and babies in the womb as part of settling a lawsuit with several consumer advocacy groups last week.

OK, details in a moment. But this type of FDA warning always perplexes me. So, what, women who are not pregnant and all men should be just dandy exposing their body to toxins? And does ‘children’ mean teens too?

The lawsuit required the FDA to post the pregnant women/children warning last week on its website. “Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses,” stated the FDA. “Pregnant women and persons who may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive to mercury exposure, including individuals with existing high levels of mercury bioburden, should not avoid seeking dental care, but should discuss options with their health practitioner.”

Even more integral to the settlement is the federal agency has committed to provide a specific rule of limitation on fillings that contain mercury by July 2009. It is expected that manufacturers will have to label all products with warnings of significant adverse health effects. Of course, there is a central question of whether those product labels make it into the hands of consumers or just dentists.

Nonetheless, the victory has been a long time coming for the consumer advocacy groups. Kudos for their hard work, especially since millions of Americans have these amalgams placed in their cavities.

“Gone, gone, gone are all of FDA's claims tha

t no science exists that [mercury filling are] unsafe,” said Charles Brown, an attorney and spokesman for one of the plaintiff groups, Consumers for Dental Choice.

Some activists were not completely satisfied because the FDA didn’t urge Americans who have mercury fillings to remove them. A good number of holistic practitioners have recommended just that strategy for years.

The FDA had steadfastly posited that research shows no health downside to mercury fillings, while consumer groups such as Moms Against Mercury insisted the amalgams could lead to multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease or brain and kidney damage.

While the lawsuit was ongoing, awareness of mercury fillings among patients and dentists has worked to greatly reduce but not eliminate individual decisions to fill cavities with the amalgams, which are basically half-mercury and half other metals. Resin, glass cement and porcelain have all been employed as safer (and lighter) substitutes. One problem: Those substitutes cost more and are less favored by most dental plans.

Be sure the consumer advocacy will use the FDA settlement and the clear warnings of health risks to next take square aim at dental insurance plans.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”