A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) treaty at the Minamata Convention on Mercury will benefit people worldwide, from the miner in Ghana to the dentist in Philadelphia. The treaty calls for an end to mercury mining within 15 years and a phase out of mercury-filled products by 2020. In a press release by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT):
The UNEP treaty is named for the victims of Minamata Bay, Japan, where thousands of adults and children were afflicted with horrendous, life-threatening symptoms of mercury poisoning after the Chisso Corporation’s industrial dumping of mercury waste resulted in the toxic contamination of the bay.
Mercury is a neurotoxin and is known to harm the human brain, kidneys, digestive system, and other functions, as well as particularly endangering the health of children. Many consumers are not aware that amalgam tooth restorations, often called “silver fillings,” contain approximately 50% mercury and that dental mercury accounts for 10% (340 tons+) of global mercury emissions.
Even before the treaty, other countries have been dealing with the issue of dental mercury. In recent years, countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have banned mercury fillings from use. Other countries will follow suit by limiting the use of the material for young children, pregnant women, and patients who have kidney problems.
With the treaty, however, there is now a formal effort to do away with dental mercury for good. A benefit of the treaty is it also encourages more people to know more about mercury in dental fillings. Dr. Jonathan Levine, a renowned oral health expert, cites a study where 92% of respondents said they would have asked about the effects of mercury in dental fillings if they knew.
For an experienced dentist in Philadelphia such as Dr. Gerald Regni Jr., the treaty also validates his cause. Dr. Regni says he knows the effects of mercury fillings after having suffered from them. That experience, he adds, has made it his cause to educate patients and other people on the impact of mercury fillings.
The adoption of the treaty is just the beginning. After that, signatories must follow through on their commitment to do away with mercury use.
(Info from IAOMT Assists in UN Treaty to Phase-down Toxic Mercury, IAOMT, October 1, 2013.)