WHO urged to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible

Today, at an expert meeting on the future use of dental fillings, a letter signed by over 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world was presented, calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible.

"We strongly urge the WHO to foster the innovative use of mercury-free alternatives in parallel with its commendable goal of bringing affordable dental healthcare to the global population," said Michael Bender of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project. "This is entirely consistent with the vast number of similar initiatives going on worldwide to phase out the use of mercury in products and processes."

In their letter, the groups point out that mercury from dental use can drift long distances through the atmosphere and contamination from this dangerous neurotoxin poses a major worldwide threat to both human health and the environment.

They also point out that there are various pathways where mercury from dental amalgams is haphazardly released and where it can be only partially controlled (dental clinics, waste water and sewage sludge, crematoria, cemeteries, etc.)

"It is generally accepted that effective global control of these releases would be not only impossible, but also inordinately expensive," said Elena Lymberidi, coordinator of the European Environmental Bureau's Zero Mercury Campaign; "Therefore, over time, the more cost effective solution is that mercury-free fillings become the rule and not the exception to dental treatment."

The WHO recently recognised the fact that world governments have reached a consensus on the need for a legally binding treaty to reduce global mercury exposure. The WHO said that today's meeting is intended to provide information for future biomaterials use, as well as address the different challenges to richer and poorer countries.

"There are a growing number of examples where developed countries have dramatically reduced or practically eliminated dental mercury use," said Rico Euripidou of Friends of the Earth, South Africa. "However, we understand the challenges developing countries face in phasing out mercury uses and recognise that an innovative and differentiated approach may be necessary."

Mercury is persistent and can be transformed in the environment into methylmercury, its most toxic form, which readily passes through both the placenta and blood-brain barriers. It accumulates in the bodies of humans and wildlife and can become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain, and poses a particular risk to pregnant women and young children who eat contaminated fish.


Mercury Policy Project


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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