Raise public awareness

raising public awareness in Paraguay
Consumer advocates raise public awareness in Paraguay

The Minamata Convention lists “promoting the use of cost-effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration” as a measure to phase down amalgam use.  The most direct way to promote mercury-free dental fillings is to raise public awareness, especially among dental patients.

Why is it effective? 

Raising public awareness about amalgam’s mercury content and mercury-free dental restorations can phase down amalgam use.  As a Zogby International poll shows, 76% of dental patients do not know that amalgam is primarily mercury.  Many patients even believe amalgam is mainly silver because it is frequently marketed as “silver fillings.”  However, once told that amalgam contains mercury, over 75% of dental patients choose mercury-free dental restorations.

Where has it been effective? 

Nations that phased down or phased out amalgam use cite high public awareness as an important factor in their success.  For example:

  • Sweden: The Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) named “High awareness of the environmental and health risks of mercury among patients” as one of the “most important explanations” for that nation’s ability to phase out amalgam use.
  • Norway: A report for Norway’s Climate and Pollution Agency explains, “The substitution of dental amalgam started as a result of public awareness and guidelines from the health authorities before the general ban on mercury in products was introduced by the environmental authorities.”
  • Denmark: In Denmark, the government explains “patients ask for alternatives due to public awareness.”

How can it be implemented?

Nations can raise public awareness about amalgam’s mercury content and promote mercury-free dental restorations with a variety of low-cost communication strategies, such as:

  • Mass media: Conduct outreach through press releases, television, radio, and news articles.
  • Brochures: Distribute brochures to patients at dental clinics and government-run healthcare facilities.
  • Consent forms: Require dentists to obtain a patient signature on a consent form before placing amalgam.
  • Posters: Develop posters or signs promoting mercury-free dentistry and post them at dental clinics and government-run healthcare facilities where the public can see them.
  • Online: Provide more detailed information for the public on government websites.

Whatever communication strategy a nation chooses, it is important to convey these basic facts: (1) amalgam is approximately 50% mercury; (2) mercury can have significant negative effects on human health and the environment; (3) the Minamata Convention on Mercury requires the phase down of amalgam use; and (4) ask for mercury-free dental restorations.