American Dental Association sues lawyer for defamation over mercury

By Tom Harrigan, The Associated Press
Wednesday May 15, 2002

LOS ANGELES — An attorney who has taken the American Dental Association to court in several states over the amount of mercury used in fillings was the target of a defamation lawsuit filed Tuesday by the organization. 

Shawn Khorrami is involved in lawsuits in California, Ohio, Maryland and Georgia against the ADA, its state affiliates and others for allegedly endorsing amalgam filling material with a high content of mercury compounds. 

The Chicago-based ADA, with 141,000 members, is accusing him of conducting an “orchestrated campaign of lies and distortion to promote himself and his law firm.” 

The organization wants Khorrami to stop the action as well as pay punitive and compensatory damages. 

Khorrami called the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, “a desperate attempt on the part of the ADA to further conceal the truth from the public.” 

“We stand firmly by the allegations made in our lawsuits: The ADA has withheld information about the dangers of mercury dental fillings from the American public. Our cases brought this issue to light and now the ADA is responding with this baseless complaint. This is similar to the smear tactics used by the tobacco industry when they were challenged,” Khorrami said in a statement. 

Dental activists say what are commonly called silver fillings actually contain about 25 percent silver by weight and about 50 percent mercury. Mercury exposure can cause cancer, birth defects and nerve damage. But scientific studies on the effects of mercury in amalgam — the term referring to alloys of mercury — have been largely inconclusive. 

Amalgam fillings cost about half as much as other fillings, including plastic and porcelain, and last longer. 

The most recent lawsuit handled by Khorrami, filed in Georgia last month, seeks damages that could exceed $100 million. It claims mercury from dental fillings, vaccine preservatives and power plants with emissions that contain mercury caused or worsened the conditions of nine autistic children.