Pregnant women, children and fetuses may be at risk from mercury leaking from silver-coloured mercury amalgam dental fillings.
But despite that announcement from the United States Food and Drug Administration last Wednesday, there were no plans in New Zealand yesterday to advise women or children of the fillings' potential risks.
In a statement about its decision, the FDA said the mercury in the fillings "may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses".
It advised pregnant women, and people with health conditions that make them sensitive to mercury exposure, to "discuss options with their health practitioner", but not to avoid seeking dental care.
The FDA had previously cited various studies claiming the fillings caused no harm to people, despite mercury being linked to brain and kidney damage.
The group's change in stance came as part of the settlement of a legal battle, brought by a collection of advocacy groups.
It is thought the FDA will bring in a raft of restrictions against the fillings from next year, but will stop short of banning them outright.
Those restrictions could include labelling to indicate mercury is an ingredient in a filling, and the exemption of nursing women, pregnant women, young children and low-immune individuals from receiving the fillings, American media reports suggested.
The fillings, an amalgam of 50 per cent mercury and a combination of other metals, are widely used in New Zealand and are considered more durable and cheaper than most alternatives.
The Ministry of Health's website was yesterday still carrying a 1999 guideline on the fillings.
It said: "Despite widespread use of amalgam for many years there is no convincing evidence of adverse health effects."
It also said there was no scientific evidence that the placement or removal of amalgam fillings during pregnancy was harmful.
There was also no scientific evidence that dental amalgam was harmful when used in children.
However, the website statement emphasised the obligation, under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers Rights, for patients to be informed of the comparative risks and benefits of amalgam use, compared with other filling materials, before receiving treatment.By Craig Borley Email Craig