NGOs develop plan to implement mercury-free dentistry in Africa

UNEP Abigjan workshop (and side trips) 207On 25 April 2015, Francophone NGOs convened in Abidjan to discuss the route to mercury-free dentistry in Africa. This second NGO summit voted to create a road map that can be implemented in every African nation. Here, then, is the Abidjan Plan to implement the Abuja Declaration for Mercury-Free Dentistry for Africa*:

A. Political, legal and institutional level

  1. Work for government policies that will phase out amalgam use in Africa by the year 2020.
  2. Disseminate the Minamata Convention on Mercury and accelerate its ratification in each country.
  3. Create in each country a framework for consultation and collaboration between ministries (environment, health, education, commerce, industry, customs, insurance, etc.) for better management of mercury-free fillings’ import and use.
  4. Change government programs and insurance policies to cease favouring amalgam and to start favouring alternatives.
  5. Make an inventory or supplement the existing baseline data on the use of dental amalgam in each country.
  6. Strengthen cooperation and partnership between NGOs and dentists to eliminate the use of mercury in dentistry.
  7. Strengthen the legal framework by developing regulatory texts regulating the use of dental amalgam.
  8. Develop a prototype for mercury-free dentistry in hospitals based on the model of institutional dental care programs implemented in military hospitals.

B. Training, research and development level

  1. Change dental school curriculum to emphasize composite, ionomers, and other minimallyinvasive and mercury-free dental fillings.
  2. De-emphasize teaching amalgam, and then phase out instruction in amalgam.
  3. Provide training in mercury-free filling placement to older dentists.

C. Information-education-communication level

  1. Provide information to dental consumers/patients, telling them that amalgam is mainly mercury and that non-toxic alternatives are available.
  2. Urge dental consumers/patients to choose mercury-free fillings.
  3. Disseminate the Abuja Declaration in each country.
  4. Raise awareness and disseminate information to all stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and in the reduction of mercury use in dentistry, especially insurers and distributors of biomedical products.
  5. Educate the public authorities why amalgam should be phased out by 2020.

Africans are well aware of the impact of toxic products manufactured elsewhere and dumped in Africa after Western consumers no longer prefer them. A current example is lead paint. Coming next, it would appear, is dental amalgam, which is 50% mercury. A ban on amalgam in Europe is probable…and a shift of sales to Africa is likely to follow.

Africa is developing fast via leapfrog development steps – getting telephones without the intermediate step of land lines, getting banking without the intermediate step of building branch banks. Africa is using superior technology to meet development goals. Likewise, no reason exists for Africa to repeat the mistake of Europe by having mass use of mercury amalgam fillings, then switching to mercury-free fillings. Africa will leapfrog straight to mercury-free dentistry.

*Also in French.