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Company: Dentsply
Subject: Mercury Dental Amalgams
Year: 2009
Sector: Health Care Products
Lead Filer: Boston Common Asset Management
Cofiler(s): Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Program and Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit
Outcome: Withdrawn for commitments to dialogue, internal review, and public reporting

Whereas: Dental amalgam, commonly referred to as a “silver filling,” is composed of approximately 50% mercury, a virulent reproductive toxicant and neurological toxicant. (A fact sheet prepared by the Dental Board of California in 2004 states that amalgam is 43% to 54% mercury.) In sharp contrast to dentistry, medicine generally transitioned out of using mercury by the end of the nineteenth century. Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even bans mercury in applications for animals.

Because of the mercury, amalgam arrives at a dentist’s office with a skull-and-crossbones affixed. Mercury amalgam is so hazardous that a dentist must put a removed filling into a hazardous waste container.

The most common dental filling material today is resin composite. Since resin is increasingly interchangeable with amalgam, substantial numbers of general dentists – one study says 38%, another 52% – never place mercury amalgam. Scandinavian nations discontinued mercury amalgam as national policy.

Abandoning mercury amalgam may be profitable for DENTSPLY. A 2007 Bank of America Securities report says ending amalgam sales would improve profits for DENTSPLY because resin is more profitable.

After years of inaction, the FDA radically changed its website in June 2008 – withdrawing claims that amalgam is safe and issuing this advisory:

“Dental amalgams contain mercury, which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses.” (www.fda.gov/cdrh/consumer/amalgams.html)

Detailed reports by major environmental groups claim dental mercury is the largest source of mercury in the nation’s wastewater.

As the most vaporous heavy metal, mercury vapors, in the opinion of many experts, are a clear danger to dental workers and their unborn children. DENTSPLY may be at risk in states permitting employees to sue those who put toxicants in the workplace.

S. 906, the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008, bans commercial elemental mercury exports; this law’s lead sponsor was Senator, now President, Obama. We believe such action by our new President forecasts an Administration which may be tough on companies producing mercury-laden products.

An NAACP witness testified before Congress that lower-income patients get mercury fillings while wealthy ones do not. Continued production of amalgam puts DENTSPLY’s reputation at risk for abetting two-tiered dentistry.

We believe: (1) the lesser profits from amalgam compared to other dental filling materials, (2) growing risk of litigation from patients and from workers, (3) likely reputational injury to DENTSPLY, a company priding itself for interest in the environment, plus (4) risk to long-term sales due to damage to DENTSPLY’s reputation for providing quality dental products to the poor as well as the rich – all point to the need to cease production of amalgam.

RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors issue a report, produced at reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, not later than December 31, 2009, identifying policy options for eliminating exposure of the environment and dental consumers to mercury from DENTSPLY products.


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