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Senator Voices Concern Over Lead-Tainted Dental Imports

Dec 3, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

United States Senator Sherrod Brown is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect American consumers from lead-contaminated dental imports.  The Ohio Democrat just published a letter he wrote to FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach in a press release, in which he is urging the FDA to protect consumers from dangerous dental product imports.

“As reports of tainted implants increase, it is essential that FDA take action to ensure the safety of these dental products,” Brown wrote to von Eschenbach.  The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) “CDC determined that lead levels under 200 parts per million are safe.  However, some of the dental implants tested by Ohio labs … indicate higher levels of lead than that ceiling,” wrote Brown.

The letter discusses, in part, Browns concerns about reports that consumers may be implanted with dangerous, lead-contaminated products and noted one of his constituents, a 73-year-old who received faulty dental implants imported from China and containing high amounts of lead.  That story was picked up by WKYC said the Senator who also discussed another individual who suffered from lead poisoning linked to a tainted crown and noted that some recently tested dental implants were found to contain lead in parts per million exceeding CDC and American Dental Association standards.  Brown also presented a number of questions to von Eschenbach regarding current and international dental product and lab standards, estimated and annual volume amounts for China-produced dental implants, tracking and inspection mechanisms, and risks posed by lead-contaminated implants, to name some.  Brown indicated that his office would be following up with the FDA in a week.

Last month, WKYC.com reported that investigator Tom Meyer ordered testing at a Cleveland lab on crowns ordered from China.  Test results indicated that two of three crowns tested contained “dangerous” lead levels, said WKYC.  Brown told WKYC that if the FDA does not respond to this problem soon, he plans on introducing legislation to ensure consumer safety from lead-tainted dental products.  According to WKYC, Brown told Meyer that, “I am just tired of U.S. companies outsourcing work to China without being held liable."  

In children and fetuses lead exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage, behavioral and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, headaches, mental and physical retardation, and behavioral and other health problems.  Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, lead can damage the nervous system.  Once poisoned by lead, no organ system is immune.  Unfortunately, lead poisoning is difficult to recognize because it manifests with subtle symptoms and there are no definitive indicators that point to lead contamination.  For instance, children with lead poisoning may experience irritability, sleeplessness or excess lethargy, poor appetite, headaches, abdominal pain with or without vomiting—and generally without diarrhea—constipation, and changes in activity level.  When faced with peculiar symptoms that do not match any one particular disease, lead poisoning should be considered.


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