FDI statement on the Minamata Convention to the WHO Executive Board

28 January 2014

FDI President Dr Tin Chun Wong made a statement on 23 January to the World Health Organization Executive Board (Geneva, 20 to 24 January). Her subject was oral health and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The meeting of the WHO Executive Board constitutes five days of intense activity. It is generally held in January and dedicated to discussing how to make WHO’s worldwide operations more effective and receiving, commenting and approving secretariat reports in WHO priority areas—communicable and noncommunicable diseases, for example—some of which are issued as resolutions.

Minamata Convention
FDI’s intervention was under agenda item 8.6 - 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.

The Minamata Convention will regulate use of mercury in a range of areas, including mercury-added products such as dental amalgam. FDI and partners had successfully 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).

The FDI Statement presented by Dr Wong to the WHO Executive Board
‘Honourable Members of the Executive Board,

Thank you for this opportunity to address the WHO Executive Board. FDI World Dental Federation, as the voice of over 1 million dentists worldwide, would like to congratulate WHO for its key contribution to a balanced outcome in the UNEP Minamata Convention, which will serve to protect both the natural environment and health.

We were delighted to see that the Convention, specifically Annex A. Part II has adopted the phase-down approach to dental amalgam that we, in common with WHO, had advocated in the interests of defending oral health.

To achieve that phase-down, Annex A makes provisions in the fields of prevention, education, research, best management practices and financial incentives. FDI believes that it can go a long way towards achieving compliance with those provisions by working with its member associations worldwide, guiding them on the contents and implications of the Convention for their member dentists and encouraging their leadership to develop a collaborative relationship with Ministers of Health and Environment.

In this regard, we offer our unqualified support to WHO and UNEP in their efforts to advise and guide ministries of public health on the Convention’s implementation and stand ready to provide assistance in developing appropriate implementation guidelines for the provisions on dental amalgam.

Furthermore, we understand the constraints under which WHO is working and the very real sacrifices it has had to make in terms of staffing and programmes. Within this context, we are extremely grateful for the efforts that the leadership of the NCD unit is taking with regard to the current vacancy within the WHO section on oral health and express the hope that this post will be filled as rapidly as possible. We are indeed grateful for WHO’s continued interest and concern in the field of oral health.’

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