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ADA offers recommendations on global mercury treaty

Washington—The Association urged U.S. negotiators on a global mercury treaty to consider the dental health benefits of amalgam.
"No decision regarding the use of dental amalgam should ignore the health benefits to patients from the availability and use of dental amalgam," the Association said in an Aug. 11, 2010, letter to the U.S. Department of State. "Dental amalgam remains a very important treatment option for repairing teeth damaged by dental caries (the infectious disease that causes cavities) because it is easy to use, cost effective, safe based on decades of use and research, and reliable."
The Association has been in regular contact with the State Department as international negotiations over a potential mercury control treaty intensify. With formal negotiations under way, the ADA offered recommendations to U.S. negotiators concerning the treatment of dental amalgam under any international treaty:

  • Any treaty requirement related to amalgam must consider the dental health benefits of amalgam.
  • Any treaty requirement related to amalgam must be consistent with existing U.S. policy, which recognizes that the choice of restorative materials should rest with the patient and his or her dentist.
  • The consequences of any proposed ban or limit on the use of amalgam should be taken into account including but not limited to the costs of alternatives.
  • The treaty must allow individual countries to select mandatory or voluntary programs consistent with national programs.
  • If  mercury intended for amalgam is improperly diverted to illegal uses in some countries, the solution should be focused on providing a disincentive to such uses, not banning all uses of amalgam.
  • The United Nations Environment Program report on mercury-containing products should be accurate and consistent with the existing scientific peer reviewed literature.

The letter, signed by Dr. Ronald L. Tankersley, ADA president, is based on input from Association Councils on Dental Practice and Government Affairs to reflect current amalgam policy and science. The ADA letter and related policy information on dental amalgam are posted at
"Clearly, the ADA would like to be informed and provide you with additional input if broad mercury product bans that might impact dentistry are discussed, particularly if they are being seriously considered for inclusion in any final treaty," the letter said.
In February 2009, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program agreed on the need to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury An intergovernmental negotiating committee has begun work on preparing the instrument and a letter requesting information was sent to a number of countries including Brazil, China, India, Russian Federation, South Africa, the United States and several European Union nations.