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Global group rejects dental amalgam ban proposal

ADA attends Minamata Convention

December 17, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

At the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in November 2019, the parties rejected a proposal from a number of African nations to ban dental amalgam.

The Minamata Convention calls for the “phase out” of most products containing mercury. Phase out refers to a ban by a date certain. Dental amalgam, because of its importance to public health, was exempted from the phase out. Instead, the Convention calls for a “phase down” of dental amalgam through increased prevention efforts, research into viable alternatives and similar measures. There is no deadline for the phase down.

During the Nov. 25-29 conference in Geneva, Switzerland, delegates representing the 113 parties renewed their commitment to “phasing out the use of products which contain mercury and to promote alternatives.” They also decided to review methods for reducing the use of mercury in manufactured products. Representatives from the American Dental Association also attended as part of the FDI World Dental Federation delegation.

“The ADA is pleased that the world community continues to heed the advice of the ADA, FDI, International Association of Dental Research and World Health Organization, as the leading authorities on the oral health of the public and continues to recognize the value of dental amalgam to public health,” said ADA President Chad P. Gehani. “We welcome enhanced work on disease prevention to reduce the demand for amalgam and all restorative materials, as well as continued research into equally effective alternatives.”

According to FDI, the proposal from Botswana, Chad, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Niger and Senegal to amend the terms of the treaty — which called for a ban rather than a phase out — "triggered heated debate" during the conference.

"Many countries opposed the proposal arguing that information on dental amalgam use and feasibility of alternatives is needed before deciding on a phase out approach," the FDI news release stated. "FDI and the International Association for Dental Research made interventions at the [Conference of Parties] urging Parties not to adopt the proposal and calling for the continued phase down of dental amalgam in order to safeguard public health. The World Health Organization also echoed these concerns."

In 2013, the United States joined the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global agreement that aims to limit mercury emissions to the environment and sets forth measures pertaining to the burning of coal, which is the largest single manmade source of mercury in the environment.

For more information about the Minamata Convention, visit MercuryConvention.org.