UN calls for global phase-down of mercury dental fillings
The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), a scientific dental organization, is unveiling an educational technical program to assist interested nations in facilitating a UN global treaty's requirement to phase down use of dental amalgam fillings.
CHAMPION'S GATE, Fla. / PRNewswire-USNewswire / — The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), a scientific dental organization, is unveiling an educational technical program to assist interested nations in facilitating a UN global treaty's requirement to phase down use of dental amalgam fillings.
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IAOMT delegates, other NGOs, and 137 countries participated in the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC5) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where, on January 19, these nations formalized a legally binding treaty to reduce global use of dental amalgam, a restorative tooth filling material containing 50% mercury.
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The IAOMT committed its membership to provide technical dental assistance to all nations, particularly developing countries and those in transition. The Academy's program will include educational workshops and hands-on support to dental professionals worldwide in order to achieve a viable transition from dental amalgam to safer alternatives.
Meanwhile, countries around the world have applauded INC5 for acknowledging that mercury from all sources must be diminished and then eliminated to protect human health and the environment. Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director explained, "Mercury, which exists in various forms, remains a major global, regional, and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment."
The Australian Dental Industry Association supported the treaty's movement away from mercury fillings, and noted, "There was widespread acceptance that dental amalgam is a major source of mercury pollution, particularly in waterways."
While officials in Pakistan called for a mercury-free country, Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Director General Asif Shuja Khan, highlighted the final round of UN negotiations as "our world's last chance" to take strong action on reducing mercury trade and use.
The East African Dental Amalgam Phase-down (EADAP) Project assisted by WHO's Oral Health Programme has realized the increased importance of alternative nonmercury dental restoratives.
WHO's Mercury Policy Report confirmed that mercury contained in dental amalgam is the greatest source of human exposure to mercury in nonindustrial settings.
Continuous emissions of mercury vapors from amalgam fillings placed in millions of mouths worldwide causes damage to the kidney, liver, and brain and has been linked to infertility. Mercury is particularly harmful to the nervous system of developing fetuses and young children. (See INC5 Bulletin)
Despite the treaty's call to phase down dental amalgam together with a plethora of scientific research demonstrating the damaging effects of dental mercury to humans and the environment, the American Dental Association continues to promote mercury amalgams as safe.
Conversely, risk assessments conducted in 2010 and 2012 by Dr. Mark Richardson identified toxic levels of mercury released from dental amalgam, a 2012 Yale University study evidenced the dangers of occupational mercury exposure, and recent studies reaffirm harm to children inflicted by dental mercury.
Considering the documented potential harmful effects of mercury amalgams, IAOMT strove for more stringent regulations, such as mandatory special protection for indigenous peoples, pregnant women, and children.
However, Pierre LaRose, DDS, a meeting attendee on behalf of IAOMT, valued the international recognition of the health and environmental hazards of mercury in dentistry as "a major victory."
David Simone, DDS, who also attended the conference, explained the impetus for IAOMT's new program, "In view of the treaty's phase-down language, IAOMT has planned and implemented a specially designed, mercury-safe 'Technical Dental Assistance Program' for all member nations."
IAOMT's program offers six hands-on steps toward ending dental mercury use. The program will be available at next year's UN Treaty meeting. Nations interested in learning about the program now are invited to contact the IAOMT.