Interview on Mercury with Leo Cashman of DAMS
If you've ever done research about mercury fillings and their effects on health, you've likely come across Leo Cashman's name. Leo is the Executive Director of Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions, a non-profit organization that was founded in 1990 to provide information on amalgam and other dental health problems.
AHJ: What prompted you to begin educating people about mercury?
Leo: In 1985 I began to have an onset of health problems that were pretty noticeable - fatigue, difficulty thinking as clearly, waking up at night sometimes shivering (even though I wasn’t cold) and feeling like I was dealing with a poison. I couldn’t think of what could be causing it, because I'd had the same natural, organic food diet I’d always had, moderate exercise, enough time to sleep, and work that I liked. After some research, I decided that my symptoms fit “hypothyroidism,” but the question still remained: Why? Why now?
After four months into this perplexing search, I was waiting in line to check out at my food coop and my eyes settled on the title on a health book, something about How Dental Amalgam Fillings can Cause Yeast/Candida Overgrowths. Something about this told me I had to buy this book and bring it home and read it. Later, at home when I finally started to read it, I began to get the message that amalgam fillings can cause health problems. The thought went through me like a lightening bolt! I had had my first amalgam filling placed - after the dentist’s assurance of safety - at the beginning of that year, four months earlier. I had been mercury poisoned! What chagrin I felt, to think that an educated man like me had been suckered into a toxic mercury exposure.
After unsafe amalgam removal (I didn't know any better back then), I wandered in the wilderness of mercury detox for a couple of years. There was no DAMS back then and virtually no book literature as a guide. Then, in 1995 I heard of a self-help group called Dental Mercury Awareness that was meeting once a month somewhere in Minneapolis and I wanted to meet others who had run into this problem and had learned something about it. After that, my interest intensified and my learning greatly accelerated. I don’t like talking about my beginnings because in the beginning I didn’t know much of anything and I was not a model for what to do.
AHJ: How fortunate that you were able to find such a group. And so many of us are so grateful for your work with DAMS. You mentioned hypothyroidism, which is such a frequent consequence of mercury poisoning. I know you get hundreds of calls at DAMS from people who aren’t sure how to best proceed after discovering that their health problems may be mercury-related. What’s a typical call for DAMS? And how do you respond?
Leo: Most often the questions come in now by email now but some also come over the phone. Most often the caller is searching for answers to nagging health problems such as fatigue, hypothyroidism, neurological disorders ranging from numbness, tingling, tremors, memory problems and, of course, the common anxiety, depression and panic attacks. There may also be a family member with these problems. Some have MS, ALS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or other auto immune disorders. Some have Lyme or a Lyme co-infections and, you know, it is very hard to beat a Lyme infection if you also have mercury fillings in your mouth. They have heard their dentist pooh-pooh the possibility that amalgam fillings, which are half mercury, can cause any health problems whatsoever. They may have been ridiculed by their physician for even raising the question about the safety of dental mercury or the concern that it may be affecting them. They have the nagging feeling that their doctor doesn’t really know how to test for mercury toxicity (this is a valid concern!) and most often, when the doctor does test for mercury, he finds nothing wrong (but it is probably a “false negative”).
Some people have already had their amalgams out but they are unsure about the next step - the heavy metal detoxification - and they have heard a lot of conflicting information about that on the internet. So, people are in an informational quagmire, living in the sea of misinformation and confusion that is probably the planned state of affairs in the dental amalgam mercury cover-up. They want to be able to talk to a real person, ask some questions, and take decisive action against the prior mistake of letting a dentist put mercury in their mouths. We help steady them and give them the confidence that this is not so confusing after all and they are pleased to know there is someone they can talk to as they go along on their journey through safe amalgam removal, detoxification and recovery.
In our experience, the people who have mixed metals in their mouth, say gold crowns along with amalgam fillings, are usually the sickest, along with those who’ve had amalgams and other mercury exposures since childhood. Those who have eight or ten or more amalgam fillings are, invariably, quite sick. Also some people have root canaled teeth, and they are often big trouble makers, as are the crowns, as so many of the crowns are toxic. So, we try to broaden people’s horizons and show them some of the other toxic things used and done in dentistry, besides the amalgam fillings.
We always mail out a DAMS information packet, which includes our DAMS list of holistic dentists for that state, along with the DAMS information guide and a sample DAMS newsletter. We offer to either enclose the article on getting ready for safe amalgam removal, or we just e-mail that short article to them if they have an email address they want to give us. We may also email them short articles on crowns, root canals, proper tooth extraction or whatever they are dealing with.
AHJ: Dental amalgam is an alloy that consists of about 50% mercury, plus smaller amounts of other metals such as silver, tin, copper and zinc. Its high malleability and ease of placement were big reasons why it became the tooth filling of choice in the mid 1800's. Can you speak a little more about the history of mercury amalgam? It's hard to believe that something so poisonous is so widely used today.
Leo: In Europe, amalgam was first used in England in 1819 and then in Paris, France in 1826. In the late 1820s, it was brought to America by Edward Crawcour and his nephew, Moses Crawcour, both natives of England. It immediately caused problems, causing the teeth to split as amalgam expanded, as well as numerous health problems related to mercury poisoning including vision problems, mouth and throat problems and sometimes deaths. The American Society of Dental Surgeons then declared the use of amalgam to be malpractice and asked all of its members to sign a pledge to not use amalgam (mercury) fillings. However, there were many renegades who refused to quit using the mercury fillings and the dispute over amalgams rocked the society so badly that it disbanded. A new group, all pro-amalgam, stepped in to the void in 1859; it became known as the American Dental Association. Gradually, these renegades, rascals, quacks (users of mercury), became the dominant dental establishment group and its defense of dental mercury became enshrined as its unquestioned policy.
In the 1920s, serious international opposition to amalgam was stirred up by the brilliant investigations of a German chemist named Alfred Stock. His detailed experimentation documented the numerous health disorders that were being triggered by dental amalgam mercury fillings and he had his own amalgam fillings removed, to his great benefit, and he urged his friends to do likewise. The dental establishment fought back harshly and gave him a lot of grief. Then his lab and most of his records were destroyed by an allied bombing raid in World War II (deliberately targeted?) and Dr. Stock became discouraged. The campaign to stop the use of amalgams quieted down for four decades.
In 1973, an American dentist named Hal Huggins met up with a Brazilian dentist named Olympio Pinto at an international meeting and began to learn from Pinto about the harmfulness of dental amalgam mercury. Huggins learned fast and he became a leading voice in America - writing, speaking, and practicing mercury-safe dentistry. As he built a fabulously large and famous dental clinic centered in Colorado Springs, many were helped, and awareness spread like wildfire. But he was also was severely denounced by the dental establishment and was targeted for elimination by the Colorado state dental board, which finally took away Huggins’ dental license in 1995.
Meanwhile, the 1980s and, even more, the 1990s, saw a renaissance of research into the hazards of dental amalgam mercury, with animal studies, human autopsy studies, and much more. A fabulous expose was aired in December 1990 on CBS 60 Minutes, hosted by Morley Safer, and seen by 30 million viewers. But the retribution against Morley Safer and his entire crew was severe, and he and 60 Minutes never dared to touch the dental mercury story again. For the most part, neither did any other major media. The center of the dental amalgam mercury cover-up, the ADA, had powerful connections, putting it into a dominant position in the US. It used its “ADA Foundation” cleverly as a pro-amalgam public relations tool. It was able to dominate dental school education at every dental school in the US because every dental school needed to be accredited by the ADA. It used its state dental association chapters to dominate the process of appointing governors to the state dental boards – thus assuring that many state dental boards would harass and threaten to de-license any holistic dentist who dared to stick his neck out publicly on the dental mercury issue. And that harassment and intimidation became all too common in many of the states. Finally, the ADA captured control of the Food & Drug Administration’s dental division, arranging for an ADA dentist to be take charge. Thus, for many years the FDA evaded its duty to classify dental amalgam as unsafe. In 2009, when finally pushed, it classified amalgams as being quite safe and put them in the “moderate risk” category, rather than in the “most hazardous materials” category, where they would have had to go through a proof of safety. In January 2015, the same FDA, forced by a court case settlement to answer extensive criticisms of its 2009 amalgam ruling, restated its cover-up position on every single issue that the critics had raised.
To summarize: in America, the mercury-using, mercury-defending “quacks” achieved wealth, connections and dominance within the dental establishment. The ADA is the dental establishment. Because of corruption – the influence of money in politics - in our government and on into our media, the quacks maintain some dominance, while honest non-profits – DAMS and others – are nipping at their heels, making some inroads in educating the public. Meanwhile, the scientific community has been mostly honest and there is more and more scientific and clinical evidence that dental amalgam mercury should be banned in the US and Canada as it now has been in three European countries – Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
AHJ: Thank you so much for that excellent summary of amalgam history. It's not the happiest of days when you realize how much corruption abounds, to the detriment of our health. But now for the question that so many readers will want answered. Which mercury detoxification protocol has proven the safest and most effective, in your experience?
Leo: It would require lots of funding and years of research to answer that question scientifically. Our government has not funded such a study, and so nobody really knows objectively. I will give you my views and I have no conflicts of interest regarding any of the products, books and people I will mention. I will give some guiding principles as well as name some specific products.
I see a timeline for detox as follows: First, remove the source of the poison and, for mercury, this means removing amalgam fillings with a holistic, biological dentist who uses the elaborate precautions needed to do it safely. Also quit eating larger fish, all fish that is likely to be high in mercury, and avoid the flu shots, which are usually quite high sources of ethyl mercury.
But prior to amalgam removal, there is the preparation, sometimes called "pretox." Prior to amalgam removal, do the pretox for a few weeks or, better, a month, and this means preparing for the safe amalgam removal and the detox which starts sometime after that is all completed. The pretox aims to open the pathways of elimination, namely the extracellular matrix (ECM), the liver/bowel elimination system and the kidney/urinary system. Silymarin, derived from the milk thistle seed, is widely used to help liver and kidney function. The mercury toxic patient is likely to have deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals and so the patient should be supplementing with vitamins C, B complex, perhaps vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, selenium and iodine, all in the right form. Chris Shade, PhD, recommends the Quinton Marine Plasma Isotonic supplement for both better drainage and for general re-mineralization. People can begin taking intestinal binders such as chlorella (inexpensive option) or begin at a lower dose on Chris Shade’s IMD, his “super binder” product that is excellent. Binders are needed to make sure that mercury and other toxic metals coming down from the liver in the bile flow get bound up and pass all the way through to the other end (bowel movement) and not re-absorbed in the intestinal walls. No active, aggressive detox efforts should begin until after amalgam removal is done and other “barriers to detox” are removed.
Barriers to detoxification should all be identified and removed as much as possible. This means the removal of amalgams that are hidden under crowns and bridges, which themselves are so often toxic, including those with nickel, copper, silver and palladium (and those metallic materials in them are contaminated by mercury from the amalgams), root canaled teeth, which are so often toxic from their infections (sometimes extremely so), jawbone disease (“cavitations”) and periodontal disease. Outside of the mouth, barriers to detox often include parasites, fungal infections and overgrowths, Lyme Disease and its co-infections, other infections, biotoxins such as the molds in water- damaged buildings, and toxic EMFs, such as the microwave radiation that we bathe ourselves in due to the use of cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, proximity to cell antennas, and those “smart meters” that are being forced on so many household by the corrupted utility companies (electric, gas and water). Our sleeping space especially should be a refuge from electric and magnetic fields, and our daytime space - e.g. work space - should also have low field levels. DAMS has short articles that expand on all of these issues.
Chris Shade’s products, which are available from his company, Quicksilver Scientific, are at the forefront of detoxification. They include his intestinal binder, IMD, his Clearway Cofactors product, and an array of products that he has developed as oral pumps - easy to deliver at home - which make the intravenous approaches more and more obsolete and unwarranted. Quicksilver has oral pumps of vitamin C, glutathione, lipoic acid and more that are well absorbed. They are somewhat pricey, yet probably cheaper than the risky and less effective DMPS and DMSA - the chelation drugs of the 1990's. I worry when I hear people start talking about the need for “chelation” because they might still be fixated on these and similar drugs, and I feel I have to warn them away.
Quicksilver’s Tri-test, which tests body burden and retention status for both inorganic and organic types of mercury, is far superior to other mercury tests based on its safety, and the information it provides.
For those who want do-it-yourself and craft their own detox program, I suggest adding such a product as HMD (based on two form of chlorella and one form of cilantro, so it's natural), or a zeolite based product, perhaps with fulvic acid and humic acid as part of the mix. Boyd Haley’s NBMI product was excellent and widely used until the FDA pushed it off the market in 2010, requiring a lengthy and expensive drug approval process. When it becomes available as an approved drug (perhaps in 2017) it will be more expensive but worth trying out if you can afford to get some. It is a true chelator, one that has the right size grips and that goes into the fatty tissues where the mercury is. His product, once introduced in 2008, clearly made the old (supposed) mercury chelators, DMPS and DMSA, largely obsolete, in my view.
The very simple, inexpensive methods like the Epsom salts baths, bathing clays, oil pulling and far-infrared saunas (use in moderation) should all be considered, and it would be foolish to not include at least some of these in any detox plan. They are all helpful.
Boyd Haley and Chris Shade, both biochemists, are today’s leading researchers and educators on how mercury causes problems in the human body, and how we can best detox. This is not just my view; I think it is a view shared by most. They are smart, innovative and the leading teachers of mercury toxicity and detoxification. So far we have just one book, Mercury Detoxification Simplified, by William Rasmussen, that discusses the products of Haley, Shade, the Tri-test, and the myriad of supplements that have come along in the last ten or twelve years.
Final thoughts: the detox plan must be tailored to the individual and adjusted on an ongoing basis to the individual. This is contrary to anybody’s “one size fits all” formula.
AHJ: I have had good success with Dr. Shade's products. The only limiting factor has been the funds to purchase them! What happened in my case back in 1998 was that I had my 10 amalgams removed unsafely. Shortly after that, I developed an enormously bloated abdomen, depression, non-stop sugar cravings, skin rashes and acne, and other vague but chronic symptoms. I now know that these were a result of an accelerated candida yeast overgrowth that was somehow saving my body as best as it could from such serious mercury exposure. Doctors would say I had candida, tell me to rotate antifungals, and I would feel worse and worse because killing the yeast would just release the mercury. Have you heard similar stories? It took me many, many years to figure this out.
Leo: Fungal overgrowths are very common with mercury problems; I expect there to be fungal overgrowths more often than not. We have a short article on this that we can email out. So, let me just say: there should be an anti-fungal program and it should unfold simultaneously with the mercury detox program. It consists of a restricted diet and a regimen of anti-fungal supplements -not drugs - that are rotating, meaning that you change the supplement you use, each time you run out of a bottle of one you switch to a different one, so that the fungal organisms cannot adapt to the anti-fungal you are using. The drugs are not used because they are too toxic to the liver over the long run and, yes, they can give you nasty symptoms of a die-off. You can gradually win the battle against the fungal yeast overgrowths and the mercury toxicity together, gradually, at the same time.
AHJ: Leo, I can't thank you enough for the time you've spent with me for this interview, and for the work you're doing to make others aware of the problem.
Leo: You're very welcome.
DAMS, or Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions, is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that provides information on dental mercury and other ways that dentistry may affect health. In addition to the dental amalgam mercury issue, DAMS is a top source of information on toxic crowns and bridges, root canal treatments and their safer alternatives, jawbone osteonecrosis (cavitations), dental material choices, fluoride and more. DAMS may be your best guide there is for navigating the complexities of the dental system. To request a DAMS information packet, which includes its list of knowledgeable dentists in your state or province, please call DAMS at 651-644-4572 or go to www.amalgam.org.
You can also visit www.iaomt.org - an excellent website with dentists' lectures on mercury and its issues.