Global 'phase down' of dental mercury use finds support

Hailed as "a breakthrough" by Green Groups, an agreement in concept was reached yesterday by a World Health Organization (W.H.O.)-convened international expert group, supporting the "phase down" of dental mercury use worldwide. However, the groups note that there is still much work to be done in deciding how and when a global dental amalgam phase down will occur.

"As a first step, I'm pleased to positively support a global 'phase down' on dental mercury use to reduce environmental releases," said Michael Bender, a meeting participant representing the Zero Mercury Working Group and director of the U.S.-based Mercury Policy Project. "We also recognized that fostering the increased use of mercury-free alternatives must tie in with W.H.O.'s commendable goal of bringing affordable dental healthcare to the global population."

W.H.O. recognizes that world governments reached a consensus on the need for a legally binding treaty to reduce global mercury exposure. They said that the "Meeting on the Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration WHO/HQ" in Geneva was intended "to provide global guidelines and strategies for future biomaterials use," and address the different challenges for richer and poorer countries.

"It was evident from the presentations at the meeting that mercury-free dental fillings are already widely used in some developing countries, so reality may be overtaking policy decisions," said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, observer at the meeting and coordinator of the European Environmental Bureau's Zero Mercury Campaign. "Medical insurances covering alternative materials could be crucial for a swifter transition allowing tooth-coloured fillings to become the rule and not the exception to dental treatment"

Last week, a letter signed by over 70 non-governmental organisations from around the world called on the W.H.O. to establish a schedule to phase out the use of dental mercury fillings as soon as possible.

A 2005 W.H.O. Policy Paper on "Mercury in Health Care" states that: "Mercury is highly toxic, especially when metabolized into methyl mercury ... Recent studies suggest that mercury may have no threshold below which some adverse effects do not occur."

SOURCE Mercury Policy Project


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