06 April 2014

Call for Mercury-Free Dentistry Gains Ground (Groups Unite to Prevent Mercury Discharges from Dental Clinics,Protect Public Health and the Environment)


Photo courtesy of  http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/dental-amalgam

An environmental network for chemical safety and zero waste has thrown its support behind the growing demand for the country’s dental care service to go mercury-free.


In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed its unity with proponents of rapid and effective action to prevent and reduce mercury emissions and releases from the use of dental amalgam.

"We support the phase down and ultimate phase out of amalgam use within an expedited timeframe. This action is long overdue.  Mercury pollution is avoidable and it is outrageous that health facilities are one of the sources of this pernicious environmental health problem,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Among the groups backing the transition to mercury-free dentistry in the country are Arugaan, Ban Toxics, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Greenpeace, Green Convergence, Health Care Without Harm, International Association of Oral and Medical Toxicologists – Philippines, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation and the Philippine Earth Justice Center.

The groups issued the statement ahead of a stakeholders’ consultation on April 7,  convened by the Department of Health (DOH),  to review a draft administrative order that will set the rules and regulations for the phase down of mercury use in dental restoration procedures.

Amalgam waste from dental facilities has been identified as one major source of mercury pollution in the environment that is contaminating the fish that people eat. 

Experts have indicated that children under the age of six, women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and their unborn babies are at greatest risk for adverse health effects linked with the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.

"The most recent scientific report confirms that dental mercury in the environment is a secondary poison in the fish and other food children eat,” added Charlie Brown, President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry in an e-mail sent to the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We salute Health Secretary Enrique Ona and the DOH  for bringing all interests to the table to discuss how and when to transition to mercury-free dentistry.  The EcoWaste Coalition is exactly right: the only effective way to protect this great archipelago from dental mercury is to phase out dental amalgam by a certain date,” the American lawyer said. 

Dr. Lillian Lasaten-Ebuen, President of IAOMT-Philippines stated: “With continuous dental mercury use, the lives of patients, dental professionals, and even dentistry students are put at risk. As dentists, we have a responsibility to campaign for oral health and a moral obligation to champion patients' rights to information and access to favorable treatment. The country’s health sector has already proven that it can go mercury-free and it is about time that the dental sector follow suit. We will work closely with government agencies and dental organizations to ensure that the shift to mercury-free dentistry is a smooth one.”

Hernandez, who is also the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, explained that amalgam waste from dental clinics enters the environment when mercury-laced waste water is discharged into the drain, when amalgam scrap is disposed of with other discards and then dumped, landfilled or incinerated. Mercury is also released into the air when remains of persons with mercury fillings on their teeth are cremated and thus vaporizing the amalgam.

The lack of clear-cut regulation for mercury-laden waste water discharge, including effluent guidelines, the lack of pollution control devices such as amalgam separators and the lack of promotion of best management practices are exacerbating mercury pollution from dental facilities, the groups observed.

While welcoming the prohibition against bulk importation of mercury for dental purposes as contained in the draft administrative order, the groups asked the DOH to reconsider the provision allowing the importation of dental amalgam capsules, and also requested the Commission on Higher Education and the dental schools to expedite the curriculum for mercury-free dentistry.

The groups likewise urged the DOH to establish the necessary guidelines for dental amalgam removal for strict implementation by dentists to protect patients' safety and their rights to exercise informed
choice, and further ensure the environmentally-sound management of subsequent waste.

“Everyone will be better off with mercury-free dentistry.  What is needed is a robust oral health program to prevent dental caries and diseases, complemented with the promotion of non-hazardous teeth restorative materials that contain no mercury.  If the problem is avoidable, allowing continued use is simply irresponsible and ultimately unacceptable,” Hernandez said.

-end-

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