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21 Jan 2013 | Press Release

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UN Convention Confirms Phased-Down Approach For Dental Amalgam

A new convention finalised under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has confirmed a role in dental care for dental amalgam containing mercury. The future of this restorative material had been an open question as over 140 governments participating in negotiations worked towards wide-ranging agreement that aims to reduce mercury releases into the environment. The convention is welcomed by the Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA), the peak representative body for suppliers of quality dental products.

"There was widespread acceptance that dental amalgam is a major source of mercury pollution, particularly in waterways. In this context, the dental industry is supportive of moves towards alternative restorative materials," said Troy Williams, ADIA Chief Executive Officer.

The ADIA dental regulation committee chairperson, Ms Pam Clark, was a participant in the negotiations that concluded on 19 January 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. These negotiations settled upon a phased-down approach to the use of dental amalgam over many years, an outcome supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and professional organisations representing dentists.

"Through the International Dental Manufacturers association, the dental industry's global representative body, ADIA members helped negotiate this landmark treaty. It's recognition of the Australian dental industry's leadership in this issue," Mr Williams said.

Beyond phasing down the use of dental amalgam, the treaty also specifies a best practice approach to minimising the release of waste dental amalgam, currently typified by the use of amalgam separators in dental practices that permit the capture, separation and eventual recycling of mercury.

"ADIA acknowledges that dental amalgam waste generated by dental practices represents a real source of mercury pollution in the environment. Accordingly, ADIA supports the rapid installation of equipment that separates dental amalgam from wastewater produced by dental practices," Mr Williams said.

The new treaty will be referenced as "The Minamata Convention on Mercury" which refers to a city in Japan where serious health issues arouse a result of mercury pollution in the mid-twentieth century.

In noting concerns expressed in some quarters about possible adverse patient outcomes associated with the use of dental amalgam, ADIA notes that it relies upon the expertise and guidance of the relevant professional bodies representing the dental profession. In this respect, ADIA accepts the views of the Australian Dental Association (ADA) and the World Dental Federation (FDI) which have both issued definitive statements, backed by research, that dental amalgam is a relatively safe and highly effective restorative material.

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