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Calls for mercury-free dentistry


    Environmentalists from different countries attend a summit on ending use of dental amalgam at the UNEP office in Bangkok yesterday
    Photo- Mohammad Al-Masum Molla

    There needs to be a regional strategy to mount pressure on governments and dentists for phasing down the use of amalgam and ensure mercury-free dentistry, environmental activists have said.

    They also urged all nations to ratify the Minamata Convention immediately to bring an end to mercury in dentistry.

    Specialists said government initiatives alone were inadequate to banish mercury and urged physicians, civil society, media and stakeholders to come forward.

    Environmentalists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, South Africa, Pakistan, Indonesia and Philippines made the observations in the Asian NGO summit “Successful Strategies to End Use of Dental Amalgam in Asia” at the UNEP office in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday.

    Activists suggested sensitising dentists about the harmful impact of mercury on environment and health, and to encourage them to opt for sustainable and environment-friendly alternatives.

    Amalgam is a mixture of half mercury and the other half of heavy metals such as silver, tin, zinc and copper. Because it is known as the cheapest solution for dental cavity, amalgam is the most widely used tooth filling.

    The silver-coloured amalgam, used for filling up cavities caused by tooth decay, has been in use for more than 150 years around the world, making it one of the oldest materials used in oral health care.

    Alarmingly, mercury is also one of the ten chemicals of major public health concern that WHO prioritises.

    The representatives at the summit decided to work closely with academicians and dental associations to bring changes to the dental curriculum so that young practitioners can start their careers with environment-friendly alternatives in dental amalgam instead of mercury.

    Experts also stressed on formulating mercury-based legislation and specific legislation can be updated through stakeholders meetings.

    They pointed out that media campaigns should be used to create better awareness on the issue. Discussions were also held about the knowledge and information gap in phasing out mercury from dental amalgam, and how to address those gaps in an effective way.

    According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), amalgam represents more than one-fourth of the total global mercury consumption in products or approximately 8% of global mercury consumption.

    The UNEP also estimates that the cost of health and environmental damage caused by exposure to mercury is $22 billion.

    For example, mercury from dental amalgam is released into the air when people are cremated. It also enters soil and waterways, where it becomes a major contaminant of food supply.
    (This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)
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