A new global legally binding treaty on mercury, signed today in Minamata, Japan, means “dental amalgam is neither appropriate nor practical in the 21st century,” said Charlie Brown, president, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. “Mercury fillings – amalgam is 50% mercury – has no future, on any continent.”
The treaty gives special attention to amalgam. It both mandates that each nation phase down amalgam use, and prescribes what steps should be taken. Countries must do at least two of these phase down steps, which include:
- promoting mercury-free alternatives,
- changing dental school curriculum and re-training dentists, and
- encouraging insurance programs to favor mercury-free dental restorations over amalgam.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the use of mercury in tooth fillings represents some 10% of global mercury consumption, thus being among the largest consumer uses of mercury in the world. UNEP estimates global use of dental mercury at between 300-400 metric tons per year.
“For dentists around the world, mercury-free alternatives are increasingly affordable, effective, and available,” said Dr. Lillian Ebuen of the Philippines, vice president for East Asia of the World Alliance. With thousands of dentists all over the world already “mercury-free,” she notes that all dentists could make this same transition in a short time frame.
“This treaty marks the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally,” said Michael T. Bender, director of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project. “Following up on a World Health Organization expert committee recommendation to phase down dental amalgam in 2009, the United States proposed this step in 2011, which was followed by a resolution from the African Region in 2012 leading to its adoption in final treaty text in Geneva in January 2013.”
“Amalgam phase-downs lead us directly to amalgam phase-outs,” said Dr. Shahriar Hossain ofBangladesh, vice president for South Asia of the World Alliance. “The environmental consequences for amalgam are far too severe for developing nations to go down that road.”
“Consumer information is the key,” said Dominique Bally of the Ivory Coast, vice president forAfrica of the World Alliance. “When parents and consumers realize that amalgam is mainly mercury – not silver, as they say in English – they will choose the non-toxic alternatives.”