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ADA calls for U.S. leadership on amalgam in international mercury treaty negotiations

Washington—The Association urged U.S. negotiators of an international mercury treaty to "assume a leadership position" on dental amalgam. "It is clear now that these negotiations go far beyond strictly environmental concerns," the Association said in a Feb. 9, 2011 letter to the U.S. Department of State that follows an Aug. 11, 2010 ADA letter urging negotiators to consider the dental health benefits of amalgam.

The second session of the United Nations Environment Programme Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a global legally binding instrument on mercury (INC2) was held Jan. 24-28 in Chiba, Japan.

"Thank you for (your) willingness to meet with us in Chiba," ADA representatives told a State Department official in the post-Chiba letter. "Now that we have all returned home, we thought it best to formally restate the ADA position on the INC negotiations and make several specific requests for action by the State Department."

The Association position "as we discussed in Chiba" is basically three-fold, the letter said.

  • The Association supports addressing the environmental impact from dental amalgam as part of the INC process. Pursuant to a 2010 House of Delegates resolution, the ADA has stated publicly that it will support a common-sense national separator requirement in the U.S. In one of its interventions in Chiba, FDI (World Dental Federation) made the same point, taking into account any local conditions.
  • Any treaty resulting from the INC negotiations should support ongoing and future research into restorative materials as effective and safe as dental amalgam. At present, no such alternative exists for all clinical or economic situations.
  • Any treaty resulting from the INC negotiations should call for national oral health promotion and oral disease prevention programs. Prevention will reduce the demand for dental amalgam and other restorative materials. Prevention is a key premise underlying all public health efforts.

"This approach will reduce the total amount of mercury used in dental amalgam, control that mercury still needed and promote the public health in all nations," the Association said.

"While we appreciate the desire of the U.S. delegation in Chiba to listen to the positions of other nations, based on the comment by the leader of the contact group, there is no consensus on this important topic. For that reason, the U.S. needs to stand up and be heard."

The ADA letter calls for additional public health and oral health representation in the U.S. delegation to the treaty negotiations and for the U.S. negotiating team to treat amalgam as a public health issue.

"We are sure you agree that the amount of time and resources devoted to the amalgam topic in Chiba far exceeded its environmental impact," the Association said. "The best way to address this is to deal with amalgam separately, as a health care product and treatment decision.

"This issue is too important for the U.S. to wait for action by other nations. The U.S. should assume a leadership position on this topic."