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Expert Panel Says Tooth Fillings Pose No Proven Risk Of Mercury Poisoning

August 29, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ People are in little danger from mercury escaping tooth fillings, says a federal panel of experts.

The panel said Wednesday that silver amalgam fillings do release mercury vapor into the mouth over many years, but not enough to be dangerous.

″Very few patients are at risk of developing reactions from dental fillings,″ said Dr. William D. McHugh, chairman of the experts panel set up by the National Institutes of Health. ″There is no substantial evidence that side effects (from the fillings) are significant.″

McHugh, a University of Rochester professor, said that based on the committee’s findings, ″There’s no reason for anyone to avoid the use of amalgam fillings if a dentist recommends it.″

About 200 million tooth restorations are performed in the U.S. annually, many of them using the silver amalgam.

--- Education Spending Reaches $414 Billion

WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans will spend a record $414 billion for education this year, the Education Department says.

Spending for public elementary, secondary and higher education is estimated at $336 billion, with an additional $78 billion spent by private schools and colleges, the department said Wednesday in its annual back-to-school report.

The $414 billion total is a 5.5 percent increase over the $392.2 billion spent last year. If adjusted to remove inflation, however, the increase would be more slight - to $395.7 billion.

Elementary and high schools are expected to spend about $249 billion in 1991-92, up 5 percent from $237 billion in 1990-91. Colleges and universities will spend about $165 billion in 1991-92, up from $155.4 billion last year.

Spending on each public elementary and high school student - including current expenditures, capital outlays and interest payments on school debt - is expected to increase to $5,961, up $213 from 1990-91.

Preschool enrollment for children ages 3 and 4 grew 44 percent between 1980-81 and 1990-91, rising from 2.3 million to 3.3 million. And the number of higher education students over age 24 rose from 4.5 million in 1980 to 6 million in 1990, while part-time enrollment rose from 5 million to 6 million, the report said.

--- Alexander Says Black Male Schools Violate Law

WASHINGTON (AP) - Education Secretary Lamar Alexander says community leaders should find ways to meet the needs of black males without segregating them in all-male academies in violation of federal law.

″Brown vs. Board of Education is very simple and to the point. It says segregated schools are inherently unequal,″ Alexander told reporters Wednesday.

Proponents of the black male academies say many public schools fail to provide role models and lack a curriculum that increases self-esteem or focuses on black culture. They say black boys are subjected to stricter discipline and other tactics that discourage academic achievement in regular schools.

Alexander sympathized with the rationale for the academies. ″I think it springs from real life, real concern about the way things are,″ he said. ″You have to deal with children the way they are growing up and help them. I understand that and I worry myself about the apparent lack of male role models for boys growing up who are African American or black.″

But Alexander said ″we got to remember the history of the last 30 years and what Brown vs. Board of Education was about.″

--- EPA Proposes Mandatory Recycling of Car Air Conditioner Coolant

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Environmental Protection Agency wants to require recycling of coolant from automobile air conditioners in an effort to protect the ozone layer.

Under the EPA proposal issues Wednesday, service stations and auto repair shops would be required to use equipment that recaptures chlorofluorocarbons from air conditioner compressors.

The motor vehicle air conditioner repair industry is the nation’s biggest user of CFCs, accounting for more than one-fifth of total consumption, EPA said.

When car air conditioners are serviced, CFCs commonly are released into the atmosphere, contributing to the destruction of the protective ozone layer. The new regulations would stop that practice.

Beginning Jan. 1, anyone repairing or servicing motor vehicle air conditioners would have to use EPA-approved recycling equipment. The deadline would be delayed a year for shops that service fewer than 100 air conditioners a year.

The proposed regulations also would forbid sale of small containers of auto air conditioning coolant, cutting off the supply for do-it-yourselfers who might otherwise release the CFCs into the atmosphere.

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