Oral Health and environment protected under Minamata Convention

25 January 2013

FDI World Dental Federation has welcomed the outcome of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) International Negotiating Committee (INC5), which closed on 19 January. It said that both Oral Health and the environment will be protected under the resulting international treaty on mercury, called the Minamata Convention.

The Minimata Convention will regulate a range of areas, including the use of mercury in products and industrial processes. During the Geneva negotiations, consensus built around the phase-down approach to dental amalgam advocated by both FDI and the World Health Organization

Improving Oral Health
Dental amalgam, a compound containing mercury, is a key restorative material in the fight against dental caries, the cause of tooth decay, which afflicts 90 percent of the world's population, making it a global public health issue. FDI had advocated a reduction in the use of dental amalgam—versus a ban—through a greater focus on dental prevention and health promotion, increased research and development on alternatives, and best management techniques for amalgam waste.

This is identical to the position of the WHO Oral Health Programme, world leader in the area, and supported by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). FDI, whose key objective is to improve world oral health, supports the approach to dental amalgam as laid down in the future Convention.

Public health and environmental safety
“The solution proposed by the treaty advances both public health and environmental safety directly” emphasized FDI President Dr Orlando Monteiro da Silva (Portugal), reacting to INC5 results.

“We are also pleased that the proposed treaty recognizes the need for national programmes to prevent oral disease and calls for more research into developing new alternative materials. FDI supports a phased down approach based on prevention, research for new dental filling materials and use of best management practices," concluded Dr da Silva.

4-year process
INC5, which brought together over 140 countries, is the culmination of a process launched in 2009 to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury. Its result is the adoption of a wide-ranging agreement that aims to reduce mercury emissions and releases to the air, water and land.

The agreement addresses the supply of and trade in mercury, use of mercury in products and industrial processes, measures to be taken to reduce emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold mining, measures to be taken to reduce emissions from power plants and metals production facilities, storage and treatment of waste containing mercury.

The future convention will be signed in Minamata later this year—hence the name—and will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries. Minimata is the town in Japan that suffered one of the worst ever cases of mercury poisoning.

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