FDI ensures oral health community interests represented at key Minamata Convention on Mercury meetings

04 October 2017 Amalgam

FDI ensured the oral health community was represented at the 1st Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) held from 24–29 September 2017, in Geneva Switzerland. The Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into force on 16 August 2017 with ratification by over 50 countries. To date, 83 countries have ratified the Convention, hence coming into force in those geographies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also held a side event in the run up to COP1 and FDI made a joint statement with the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). The opportunity was used to call on WHO to update its 2009 publication 'WHO Guideline on Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration' to help in the phase down of amalgam in a practical, evidence-based way.

Influencing amalgam discussions

It was important for FDI to be present at COP1 to ensure we could influence any discussions around amalgam and represent the interests of our member organizations. FDI’s supports the phase down of dental amalgam and the organization was a key player during the negotiation phase to ensure the Convention stipulated phase down and not phase out of amalgam.

FDI’s position has always been that amalgam phase down can only be a reality if access to safe, effective, affordable alternatives, specifically in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is made a priority together with financial support.

COP1 discussions focused very much on matters related to mercury supply sources and trade, emissions, financial resources and mechanism, compliance and effectiveness evaluation. Hence although amalgam was not specifically discussed, it was important to understand how the Minamata Convention will be implemented at a practical level. Some recurring themes that came out through the discussions were:

  • Ensuring adequate technical and financial assistance is available for implementation of the Convention
  • Involvement of all government departments i.e. health and not just environment
  • Capacity-building and best practice sharing across countries as well as training and education
  • Raising public and private sector awareness on the Convention and the role they can play
  • Guidance on cost-effective and affordable alternatives to mercury
  • Provision of a monitoring and evaluation framework

How does the Convention impact the dental profession?

The dental profession is impacted by Annex A, Part II, of Article 4 on Mercury-added products and dental amalgam. This outlines nine provisions for the phase down of dental amalgam of which ratifying countries must commit to implementing two or more measures. FDI’s efforts to date have focused on provisions related to: prevention; promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restoration; and best management practices for amalgam waste.

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Pushing for guidance and support from WHO

WHO held a side event in the run up to COP1 on 22 September around the theme of 'For Health, Make Mercury History'. The event was held in keeping with World Health Assembly Resolution 67.11 on Public health impacts of exposure to mercury and mercury compounds: the role of WHO and ministries of public health in the implementation of the Minamata Convention.

Representatives at the meeting included Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva, Ministries of Health and other health sector representatives participating in the Conference of the Parties, UN partner organizations, and NGOs such as FDI.

The Chair of the COP1, Fernando Lugris from Uruguay was also present (pictured here with FDI Executive Director, Enzo Bondioni). FDI used the opportunity to make a joint statement with IADR to support WHO and Member State efforts in the implementation of Resolution WHA67.11 adopted at the 67th World Health Assembly. And to emphasize that amalgam phase down can only be a reality if access to safe, effective, affordable alternatives, specifically in LMICs is made a priority together with financial support. The phasing down of amalgam before the availability of affordable alternatives would negatively impact oral health both from an individual and population perspective. FDI and IADR therefore, called on WHO to update its 2009 publication 'WHO Guideline on Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration', with the latest scientific evidence to help support Member State activities at a national level.

Mr Enzo Bondioni (FDI Executive Director) with Mr Fernando Lugris (COP1 Chair)

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