I very briefly mentioned new research suggesting mercury fillings aren’t harmful back here last month. In Saturday’s Guardian, Ben Goldacre (who runs the Bad Science blog) had a short article on the topic. In it, he addresses the lack of coverage of the research in the UK media, despite stories in the last decade suggesting how dangerous mercury was. He notes:
Panorama did an excellently chilling documentary in 1994 called The Poison in Your Mouth. As far as I am aware there is no Panorama documentary in the pipeline covering the startling new research data suggesting that mercury fillings may not be harmful after all. In the UK there is not a single newspaper article to be found. Not a word on this massive landmark study, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
This brings to mind the current “controversy” over the connection between thimerosal (a mercury-containing compound) in vaccines and development of autism–a connection that hasn’t been substantiated, but there certainly is a lot of fear and misinformation about the topic. Indeed, like the “Poison in your mouth” documentary, there are splashy books written on the topic (such as Kirby’s Evidence of Harm, which has also been optioned for a movie. Additionally, while those who are anti-vaccine accuse the government and public health officials of “fear-mongering” about the potential harm of infectious disease, who are the ones continually throwing around words like “poison” whenever the topic comes up?
I wonder, when the data in the coming years show no decrease in autism despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines, will the press coverage of the topic be similarly lackluster? Will the advocates of the link have moved onto another “poison” by then?