Mercury is now recognised as a chemical of global concern due to its persistence in the environment, ability to bioaccumulate in ecosystems and its negative effect on human health and the environment.1-6
Mercury can produce a range of adverse human health effects and, in particular, has been shown to be toxic to the developing fetal nervous system. 7-220 Mercury has been on the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) agenda since 2001. The WHO has issued a policy paper for the phase-out of mercury in the health sector5 and the FDA’s decision to classify mercury fillings is a reflection of the legislations enacted in Europe and Canada that highlight the neurotoxic effects of mercury fillings.217
Last year the UN began negotiations to produce a global legally-binding instrument on control and/or phase-out of all sources of mercury use. As one of the five major mercury polluting products, dental amalgam was listed to be phased out in the first draft of this environmental treaty.
In its submission to UNEP in January 2011, the Australian government was the only nation in the world to request an exemption for amalgam from the phase-out list as called for in the treaty. The primary reasons given were the “public health advantages” of lower cost, ease of use, and quality over alternative materials.
The Government’s support for amalgam is confusing, considering the 1999 review by the NHMRC which recommended amalgam not be used in children, pregnant and nursing women and people with kidney impairments, due to mercury exposure.220
Last month 28 non-government organisations endorsed a letter to the Australian government asking for the withdrawal of Australia’s recent request to the UN that dental amalgam be exempt from the global phase-out of mercury products.
Dr Lily Tomas, Vice-President, Australasian Integrative Medical Association
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