The British Dental Association (BDA) believes that the signing of a globally binding treaty on the use of mercury is a sensible outcome that recognises the practicalities of improving oral health.
The treaty was endorsed at a meeting in Minamata, Japan on 10 October. It requires nations to phase down the use of dental amalgam fillings, of which mercury is a component, over an appropriate period of time.
The signing of the treaty follows years of discussion by the United Nations’ Environmental Programme’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (UNEPINC).
During those discussions, BDA lobbying stressed the importance of avoiding a complete phase-out of the use of mercury in dentistry, particularly in a short timeframe.
The BDA warned that more time is needed both for preventive oral health initiatives to be implemented and show results, and for suitable alternative filling materials to be developed.
British Dental Association representatives Drs Stuart Johnston and Susie Sanderson, both members of the organisation’s Principal Executive Committee, led international lobbying on behalf of dental associations around the world.
The final terms of the treaty were agreed at a meeting of UNEPINC held in Geneva in January 2013.
Dr Johnston, who led the World Dental Federation Amalgam Task Team during the talks, said: 'We welcome the fact that this treaty strikes a sensible balance between the very understandable imperative to reduce global mercury emissions and the need to have the tools available for dental professionals worldwide to continue the fight to improve oral health.
'It takes a holistic view that recognises both the unique contribution that dental amalgam – a hard-wearing, safe and long-lasting material used in dental restorations – makes in dentistry, while also acknowledging the importance of reducing mercury emissions from all sources, including from far more significant industries including coal burning and gold mining.
'Importantly, it also acknowledges the crucial role that preventive oral health programmes can make to reducing need and demand for fillings.'