NGO releases briefing about phasing down dental amalgam
BRUSSELS, Belgium: Dental amalgam is known to contribute to the accumulation of mercury in the environment globally, constitutes the largest use of mercury in the European Union and is a major source of pollution. In order to assist EU member states in developing their national plans to phase down dental amalgam use, a non-profit membership organisation Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe has created a guidance document and a set of recommendations.
Mercury is an extremely toxic heavy metal that affects human health and the environment. Exposure to mercury occurs mainly through eating fish and other marine species and can result in serious health hazards, including memory loss and language impairment. While mercury is a naturally occurring element, only 10 per cent of yearly mercury emissions are released into the environment from natural sources such as forest fires or volcanic eruptions, according to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme.
In May 2017, the EU institutions formally adopted a new regulation on mercury aimed at aligning European law with the resolutions of the international Minamata Convention on Mercury to facilitate a gradual reduction of mercury use. In force since 1 January 2018, the regulation mandates important time-bound restrictions for member states’ use and disposal of dental amalgam in dental practices.
In accordance with the regulation, dental amalgam treatment in children younger than 15 and in pregnant or breastfeeding women has been restricted in the EU as a whole, except when deemed strictly necessary. By 1 July 2019, all 28 EU member states must have set out a national action plan with measures to phase out the use of dental amalgam. To date, Sweden is the only country to have completely banned dental amalgam use.
HCWH Europe’s briefing paper, Developing National Plans for Phasing Out Dental Mercury, provides the legislative background to the adoption of the EU regulation on mercury and justifications for implementing discontinuation of dental amalgam use ahead of potential future legislation. It also includes case study examples of best practices for phasing down dental amalgam from across Europe, as well as key recommendations for EU member states for developing their own national plans. The briefing paper is currently being sent to member states’ national ministries for consideration.
In the lead-up to the 1 July 2019 deadline for national action plans, HCWH Europe has also created an online tool to track member states’ progress towards implementation of a phase-out for vulnerable groups, as well as other phase-down activities of the EU regulation on mercury. The tracker uses data from national ministries, dental associations and other sources across the EU. HCWH Europe has said that it welcomes contributions from relevant stakeholders to help reflect the current regulatory status as accurately as possible.