The new accord, signed on Saturday in Geneva, aims to cut mercury pollution from mining, utility plants and a host of products and industrial processes, by setting enforceable limits and encouraging shifts to alternatives in which mercury is not used, released or emitted.
It now moves on to the ratification process. According to the AP report quoted above, once signed in Japan later this year, “50 nations must ratify it before it comes into force, which officials predicted would happen in three to four years.”
The treaty is not perfect. It could be tougher. But as critical supporters say, it’s a “first step,” and that’s something. And, importantly, the agreement addresses the critical problem of dental mercury and includes “binding requirements for countries to phase down dental amalgam,” according to the Mercury Policy Project media release on the matter. Said MPP director, Michael T. Bender, “This is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally.”
Here’s the key passage:
Article 6 Annex C Part II – Dental Amalgam Provisions
Measures to be taken by a Party to phase down the use of dental amalgam shall take into account the Party’s domestic circumstances and relevant international guidance and shall include two or more of the measures from the following list:
- (i) Setting national objectives aiming at dental caries prevention and health promotion, thereby minimising the need for dental restoration;
- (ii) Setting national objectives aiming at minimising its use;
- (iii) Promoting the use of cost-effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration;
- (iv) Promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restoration;
- (v) Encouraging representative professional organisations and dental schools to educate and train dental professionals and students on the use of mercury-free dental restoration alternatives and on promoting best management practices;
- (vi) Discouraging insurance policies, and programmes that favour dental amalgam use over mercury-free dental restoration;
- (vii) Encouraging insurance policies and programmes that favour the use of quality alternatives to dental amalgam for dental restoration;
- (viii) Restricting the use of dental amalgam to its encapsulated form;
- (ix) Promoting the use of best environmental practices in dental facilities to reduce releases of mercury and mercury compounds to water and land.
The full text of Article 6 is available here (and includes a list of other mercury-containing products to be phased out).
Unfortunately, no phase-out date was set for dental amalgam, and the bar for compliance does seem on the low side. But again, it’s a start – and an important one. And we’re grateful to all those who worked so hard these past four years to make this treaty a reality.