|A ban on the use of mercury in the dental fillings of children and pregnant women comes into effect on July 1 and NGOs are calling on European states to implement it fully.
Consumer and environmental groups are calling on EU Member States to require dentists to immediately adhere to a new EU-wide regulation banning placement of mercury dental fillings in children as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that pollutes the environment, gets taken up the food chain and can damage the nervous, renal and cardiovascular systems. This ban aims to protect human health at an early stage of development. Mercury is used heavily in dentistry but it is easily replaceable.
“With the ban to protect Europe’s children starting today, we call on Europe’s dentists to adhere to it now,” says Charlie Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. “21st century dentistry is mercury-free dentistry and Europe’s children deserve nothing less.”
Last year, the European Union adopted a new mercury regulation including a dental amalgam ban for the first teeth of children under the age of 15 and for pregnant and breastfeeding women beginning 1 July 2018. The regulation allows dentists to use dental amalgam in cases where they feel there is a medical need but this should only account for a very small proportion of cases. Dental amalgam is the metallic substance used by dentists to fill gaps in decaying teeth and it is 50% mercury.
The new rules also require Member States to establish a national plan by July 1 2019 to phase down dental amalgam use. In addition, the regulation requires the European Commission to assess by mid 2020 the feasibility of phasing out dental amalgam use entirely.
“The EU decision for a partial amalgam ban for vulnerable populations clearly acknowledges the environmental danger from mercury in dentistry” says Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager “Zero Mercury Campaign” at the European Environment Bureau. “The EC and EU Member States need to ensure that dentists apply the ban straight away, and verify whether the use of exemption is really necessary. EU authorities should further ensure that citizens are made aware of these provisions.”
Given that dental amalgam is 50% mercury, the Minamata Convention on Mercury requires each participating nation to reduce its use. According to the new EU regulation:
“The use of mercury in dental amalgam is the largest use of mercury in the Union and a significant source of pollution. The use of dental amalgam should therefore be phased down in accordance with the Convention and with national plans based, in particular, upon the measures listed in Part II of Annex A of the Convention. […] Furthermore, particular preventive health protection measures should be taken for vulnerable members of the population, such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.”
The regulation also states that: “The training of dentistry students and dental practitioners on the use of mercury-free alternatives, in particular for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant or breastfeeding women [… ] can help in reducing the use of mercury.”