News

EU scientists finally recognize dental mercury causes 'secondary poisoning'

EEB Reactions

 [18 March 2014, Brussels] For the first time, the European Commission’s scientific committee has recognized that the use and subsequent release of mercury from dental amalgam can contaminate the fish we eat.

Environmental NGOs the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD) called on EU decision makers to now propose a ban on dental amalgam. They highlighted the key finding in the opinion from the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), released on Friday 14 March 2014, which now confirms that under certain conditions dental mercury can methylate - forming the most toxic form of mercury, methylmercury - and that: “the acceptable level in fish is exceeded… concluding that a risk for secondary poisoning due to methylation cannot be excluded.” They note that this risk occurs at much lower methylation rates than previously thought.

“The building blocks are in place for the Commission to announce a phase-out date for amalgam – the 2012 an EU commissioned report proposed a phase out by 2018; in 2013 amalgam manufacturers recognizing the ‘demise of amalgam’ and a growing percentage of EU dentists no longer use amalgam nor support its continued use.” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’ at the European Environmental Bureau.

“A number of EU member states have also signed a new global treaty in 2013, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, added Attorney Edith Bon of Paris, European Union Counsel for the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry also. “It is now time for the Commission to act on this.”

The main alternative to amalgam in Europe is composites. This final opinion, also confirms that in contrast to amalgam, any adverse environmental impact of composites is "very limited."

Dr. Bent Christiansen, a dentist from Denmark’s Jutland, said “Amalgam alternatives are now used in the overwhelming majority of cases. From a dentist’s perspective, the alternatives are plainly superior to amalgam, which requires invasive removal of good tooth matter. By contrast, alternatives are minimally invasive. No earthly reason exists for using amalgam for any kind of cavity in a child or adult.”

Mercury is a highly neurotoxic product which can cause brain damage or even death to children and fetuses. Dental amalgam is about 50% mercury. Its use has increasingly been discredited, and it is virtually forbidden in Scandinavian nations. The Minamata Convention on Mercury, signed by 96 nations in Japan in October 2013, calls for a global phasedown in the use of dental amalgam.

ENDS

[1] The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens’ organisations. It is the environmental voice of European citizens, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our aim is to ensure the EU secures a healthy environment and rich biodiversity for all.
The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD) is a coalition of NGOs dedicated to ending dental mercury pollution. We work with NGOs, dentists, and dental patients on six continents and throughout the EU Member States.

Background reading:

·    Final Opinion on Environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury from dental amalgam (update 2014)

EEB/WAMFD/MPP Comments to the SCHER 2013 preliminary opinion on dental mercury (25/11/2013), Annex I – average case scenario, Annex II best case scenario

SCHER 2013 Preliminary Opinion on the environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury from dental amalgam (update)

Study on the potential for reducing mercury pollution from dental amalgam and batteries, Final report prepared for the European Commission – DG ENV, BIO Intelligence Service (2012).

29 - 30 August 2013, 22nd European Dental Materials Conference, Birmingham

Stone et al. (2003) –Determination of methyl mercury in dental-unit wastewater

The Minamata Convention on Mercury

Contacts

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, T: +32 2 2891301, elena.lymberidi@eeb.org

Attorney Edith Bon, European Union Counsel, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry,
T: +33 (0)1 45 26 32 46 or +33 (0)6 87 04 11 31, edith.bon@gmail.com

Alison Abrahams, EEB Communications Officer at alison.abrahams@eeb.org +32 (0) 2289 13 09 or +32 (0) 489 304 962

For more info, please contact:

Elena LYMBERIDI-SETTIMO

Project Coordinator: Zero Mercury Campaign

Tel: +32 (0) 2 289 13 01