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U.S-signed treaty ‘upholds use of amalgam’

Washington— The Association commended public health provisions in a global mercury treaty that “upholds the use of dental amalgam, a durable, safe, effective cavity-filling material.” The United States signed and offered acceptance documents Nov. 6, joining other nations in moving the legally binding treaty forward.

A Department of State official signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury and deposited the U.S. Instrument of Acceptance to enable the United States to become a party to the Convention, said a media note at the department’s website. The U.S. was scheduled to sign the document Oct. 10 in Japan but withdrew participation in the treaty signing ceremony because of the partial government shutdown.

The Minamata Convention was concluded by the United States as an executive agreement, and no further congressional action is required, a State Department official told the ADA News.  

Caries, the disease that causes tooth decay, afflicts 90 percent of the world’s population making this a global public health issue, ADA President Dr. Charles H. Norman, III, said in a statement posted at ADA.org. Unlike other products addressed in it, the treaty places no restrictions on the use of amalgam. Instead, the treaty calls for signatory countries to set national objectives and implement programs aimed at dental caries prevention and health promotion. The ADA also supports the treaty’s call for more research into new dental treatment options.

The Association is pleased that the treaty carries forth the ADA’s long commitment to capture and recycle amalgam waste, the statement said. Dental office best management practices established by the ADA can prevent up to 99 percent of waste amalgam from entering the environment through capture and recycling.

“By phasing up global preventive strategies, we can improve oral and general health outcomes worldwide," said Dr. Norman. “In addition, raising global awareness of the importance of oral health to overall health, including how to prevent dental diseases, decreases the need for all cavity-filling materials, including dental amalgam.”

The treaty aims to limit mercury emissions to the environment and sets forth measures pertaining to the burning of coal, which is the largest single manmade source of mercury in the environment. The treaty also considered a number of other sources such as small-scale gold mining and the Chlor-alkali sector. Five products, including dental amalgam, were also considered.

The Convention was developed over four years of international negotiations, which concluded on Jan. 19, 2013 when 147 governments agreed to the draft text that was formally adopted and opened for signatures Oct. 10, 2013, in Japan.

The ADA encourages people to talk with their dentists about their dental treatment options. More information on dental amalgam and other restorative materials is available at MouthHealthy.org.