Danaher Shareholders Seek to Accelerate Phase-Out of Toxic Mercury from Dental Products

Citing management's "resistive" stance in the face of clear environmental health risks, investors petition Danaher Board on eve of annual general meeting.

May 07, 2013, 11:43 ET from Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility from ,Mercury Policy Project

NEW YORK, May 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the Investor Environmental Health Network and shareholders in the Danaher Corporation today released an open letter they sent to the Board of Directors regarding what they see as the company's failure to adequately address the environmental health risks of the continued use of mercury, a neurotoxin, in its dental products.

Referring to a shareholder resolution that the company omitted from its 2013 proxy statement, Cathy Rowan of Trinity Health and lead filer of the resolution said, "Danaher's decision to exclude our resolution is difficult to comprehend in light of 2009's strong shareholder support, as well as compelling testimony from scientists and environmentalists who all affirm the clear environmental health risks of mercury, and the need to phase out the use of dental amalgam."

Danaher's subsidiary, Kerr, Inc., is a leading manufacturer and marketer of dental amalgams (i.e., silver fillings) which are comprised of 50% mercury, a known reproductive and neurological toxin. Once released into the environment, mercury can convert into the much more toxic methylmercury; exposure to methylmercury is particularly dangerous for infants and young children.

In January, the United States and 139 other countries agreed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury to reduce mercury use worldwide. The treaty calls for:

  • Setting national objectives aimed at minimizing dental amalgam use;
  • Promoting cost-effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives; and
  • Encouraging professional organizations and dental schools to train dental professionals and students on the use of mercury-free dental restoration alternatives.

Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, a non-profit which seeks to eliminate mercury use observed, "During the treaty negotiation the U.S. called for an amalgam 'phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out.' Danaher should heed policy makers and its own shareholders, and join with the world community to reduce and eventually eliminate amalgam."

Sr. Kathleen Coll of Catholic Health East said, "By adopting a proactive stance and accelerating progress on a comprehensive phase-out of mercury in its product line, Danaher would underscore its reputation as a sector leader and public health advocate."

While mercury amalgams are marketed as cheaper than resin fillings, a study co-authored by the Mercury Policy Project indicates that when environmental impacts are considered, they are in fact more expensive. 

Said Sr. Valerie Heinonen of Mercy Investment Services, "We are particularly concerned about families with children on Medicaid, who don't have the luxury of choosing alternative fillings. We are asking Danaher to bring to market much needed cost-effective and toxin-free dental fillings." 

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR):
Currently celebrating its 42nd year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. 

SOURCE Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Mercury Policy Project