With a treaty on mercury to be signed next month, concern is growing that toxic mercury fillings will be dumped into developing nations. In a letter to U.S. manufacturer Dentsply, 62 health, social justice, and environmental groups from 40 nations and six continents ask its president, Bret Wise, to cease selling dental amalgam to developing nations.
The letter, found at http://www.toxicteeth.org/letter-with-62-ngos-40-nations.as…, is organized by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, www.toxicteeth.org
“We must end the toxic trade and use of dental mercury that pollutes our bodies, land, water and air! We have no capacity to handle more mercury containing products, which pollutes the environment and end up in the food we eat.” says S.M. Mohamed Idris, President of the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM).
Dental amalgams, known to many of us by the deceptive term “silver fillings,” are 43 to 54% mercury. Between 313 and 411 tonnes of mercury is consumed annually around the globe for use in dental amalgam, accounting for 10% of mercury consumption. This significant amount of mercury eventually enters our environment via many different pathways.
Once dental amalgam is in the environment, microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Methylmercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.
The new Minamata Convention on Mercury was agreed to in Geneva in January, and will be signed in Minamata, Japan, in October. This global agreement is an important step forward in protecting public health and the environment from mercury pollution. The Convention requires phasing down the use of amalgam.
In a letter to CAP, the Director General (DG) of Health Malaysia stated that in principle the Ministry of Health supports the control and phase-out programme for mercury-containing products. The DG of Health indicated that in terms of dental amalgam, efforts are being taken to minimise use among children, pregnant women and sensitive groups; encourage use of mercury-free material for dental restoration and the use of amalgam is limited to encapsulated form.
Dr. Shahriar Hossain, of the Bangladesh NGO, Environment and Social Development Organization notes, “It is not uncommon for manufacturers of toxic or unsafe products to shift their sales to low-income nations after the product is limited by authorities in wealthier nations. We are determined that this not occur with mercury fillings.”
Dentsply, headquartered in York, Pennsylvania, has $3 billion of sales and, besides North America, has offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. It manufactures dental equipment and devices of all kinds, including all major alternatives to amalgam. A local citizens’ group, South-Central Pennsylvanians for Mercury-Free Dentistry, issued a “wake-up call” telling Dentsply to cease producing amalgam, which is composed about 50% of mercury.
“Rather than being a good corporate citizen, Dentsply is stonewalling appeals from the local citizens’ group,” says Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice and president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Mercury. “Rather than expanding sales of non-polluting materials, Dentsply seems bent on continuing its toxic trade into developing nations.”
CAP and SAM urge the government of Malaysia to be alert of importation of dental amalgam and other mercury-containing products used in the health care sector to prevent dumping. The Ministry of Health needs to urgently commit, by setting national objectives and time-line, to reduce and eliminate mercury use and move towards the goal of mercury-free health care.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS
President, Consumers’ Association of Penang & Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Note to Editor
The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, www.toxicteeth.org created in 2010, led the successful campaign at the treaty negotiations to include amalgam in the Minamata Convention. It is a coalition of NGOs from six continents, with ten regional vice presidents. The World Alliance is now focusing on implementing the mandated global phasedown of amalgam.
For further information on Minamata Convention on Mercury, refer to
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