Dental Tribune Europe

Global mercury treaty to be put into force

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union, together with seven of its member states, has ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury and resultantly provided the clinching votes needed to bring it into force.

The international agreement aims to protect both humans and the environment from the negative effects of mercury and mercury compounds, and its ratification is seen as a crucial step in achieving this.

The Minamata Convention was signed in October 2013 under the United Nations Environment Programme. It was named in honour of the Japanese city of Minamata, where thousands of people were poisoned as a result of dumped wastewater containing methylmercury. Though 128 countries had already signed it, the treaty needed to be ratified by 50 countries to enter into force. With the ratification provided by the EU and seven member states—Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden—the total number of signatories reached 51, resulting in its enactment.

Owing to its ratification, the Minamata Convention will now become legally binding for all involved parties on 16 August 2017. In addition to this, the first Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention will be held in Geneva in Switzerland from 24 to 29 September 2017. This conference will be instrumental in deciding how the treaty will be adopted and implemented on a technical, administrative and operational level.

“This legally binding agreement is our best hope to curtail the global mercury crisis,” said Michael Bender, co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group, an international coalition formed by the European Environmental Bureau. “Over time, it will provide countries with both the technical and financial resources necessary to reduce worldwide exposure risks to mercury.”

The World Health Organization considers mercury to be one of ten chemicals of major public health concern owing to its numerous adverse effects. Mercury and its assorted compounds have been demonstrated to threaten proper development of children in utero. They have also been associated with reduced cognitive performance, kidney damage and digestive system issues. Though dental amalgam’s effect on the level of mercury in the human body is a topic of much debate, there has nevertheless been a shift away from amalgam, which contains roughly 50 per cent mercury, towards alternative filling materials.

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