Dental Tribune Europe

EU endorses amalgam ban in children and pregnant or breastfeeding women

By Dental Tribune International
December 13, 2016

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union (EU) has provisionally agreed that dental amalgam fillings are to be banned for children under the age of 15 and for pregnant and breastfeeding women as of 1 July 2018. However, a general phasing out of dental fillings containing mercury is off the agenda for the time being. Instead, it is to be decided by 2020 whether the use of the material be stopped entirely by 2030.

The provisional agreement was reached at a summit between the three EU institutions—European Parliament, European Commission and the Council of the European Union—on 6 and 7 December. The action, which must now be approved by both Parliament and Council, is part of a broader initiative to implement the objectives of the Minamata Convention, which aims to curb the use and release of mercury into the environment. The provision also requires each member state to set out a national plan on how it will reduce amalgam use, in general, by 1 July 2019.

“With this agreement, Europe takes an important step towards returning to world leadership in implementing the Minamata Convention. These steps towards the phasing out of dental amalgam will now resonate across the world,” Elena Lymberidi-Settimo from the European Environment Bureau said, commenting on the agreement.

Amalgam is estimated to release up to 75 tons of highly toxic heavy metal in the EU annually. Although the European Commission considers amalgam fillings to be safe for patients, especially when encapsulated in the mouth, studies have shown that dental amalgam may cause mercury poisoning in genetically susceptible populations.

In addition, critics have raised concerns about the health risks posed by the material during processing and disposal, as well as in the burning of deceased persons in crematoria. Studies involving dental health care personnel have further indicated that mercury exposure from dental amalgam during placement and removal may cause or contribute to many chronic illnesses and could lead to depression, anxiety and suicide.

Although amalgam use is declining in many high-income countries, there are currently no widely available alternatives in low- and middle-income countries. “The profession must remain committed to the phase-down of amalgam use because of the wider damaging effects of environmental mercury on health,” Prof. David Williams, Vice-Chair of the FDI Science Committee, told Dental Tribune Online in an interview. “As a profession, we have a responsibility to find better, safer, affordable alternatives to dental amalgam to better serve our patients.”

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