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Nigeria, others demand dental amalgam phase-out by 2021

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The African region is seeking an amendment to Annex A to the Minamata Convention on Mercury by moving dental amalgam from Part ll to Part l of Annex A.

The African amendment on amalgam proposed by Botswana, Chad, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Niger, and Senegal will be on the agenda for the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Geneva this month.

The amendment reflects the European Union’s position by proposing a permanent ban on dental amalgam fillings for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women by 2021.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Mercury Assessment in 2018 revealed that global mercury emissions into the atmosphere rose by around 20 per cent between 2010 and 2015. According to the assessment, East/Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South America account for the greatest increases in mercury emissions between 2010 and 2015.

Currently, dental associations, environmental nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and other civil society organizations have launched a global petition, calling for support, at the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP3) on the proposed African Amalgam Amendment to the Minamata Convention.

The groups in their petition say the proposed amendment would phase out amalgam in two steps: One, ending amalgam use in deciduous teeth, children under 15 years, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women by 2021 and two, ending all amalgam use – except where no mercury-free alternatives are available – by 2024.

According to them, children’s developing brains are especially vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of mercury. The African Amalgam Amendment will provide all the children of the world this same safeguard now given to European children: an end to this unnecessary mercury exposure.

“The African Amalgam Amendment will protect our rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans – the media through which mercury enters into our food chain – from this very significant source of mercury. So that all the world’s children may eat mercury-free fish, let us make lakes and seas mercury-free: not only Lake Superior and Lake Geneva, but also Lake Titicaca, Lake Victoria, Lake Manchar, and Lake Baikal .. . not only the North Sea, but also the Celebes Sea and the Caspian Sea.

“It is a mistake to shift focus to dental waste management. It is much less expensive to phase out amalgam than to saddle dentists with buying separators and to enlist countries to build billion-dollar waste facilities. There is one cost-effective solution, and it is not dental waste management: it is to phase out amalgam.

“This Amendment gives time for training and to re-direct purchasing. Many mercury-free alternatives to amalgam are available today, especially for children’s teeth, but where there is a short supply. “

Meanwhile, resolutions reached at the end of the two-day African Regional Preparatory meeting held penultimate week in Accra, Ghana’s capital city recently on the forth coming third Conference of the Parties (COP3) in November, also put its weight behind a proposal.

The proposal received overwhelming support by nearly 27 Parties from the African region that attended the regional preparatory meeting held in Ghana. Not only that, the Secretariat has also scheduled the proposal on the agenda for consideration during COP3.

Parties that attended the Ghana meeting are: Benin, Togo, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gambia, Gabon, Eswatini, Lesotho and Ghana.

Others are Nigeria, Kenya, and Niger.

Other are Namibia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Mali, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It was also attended by observer groups, UN agencies, and media among others.

An environmentalist and Professor of Chemistry, University of Lagos, Babajide Alo, said the two-day meeting was quite productive and the African region has taken good positions on each of the issues particularly those that are relevant to the region’s own interest.

His words: “We do know that mercury emissions from Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) are a major issue for us because several of our countries still have extensive artisanal gold mining going on and we are taking a position.

“We would continue to consider minimizing the use of mercury in artisanal mining, we don’t want to get our people off their jobs and their means of livelihood and it should be a gradual  face-out of the use of mercury by introducing alternatives to our mining.”

As of October 2019, 114 countries have ratified as Parties to the Convention. Out of these, the African region is leading with 31 Parties to the Convention and nearly 27 of the Parties.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty that seeks to protect human health and the physical environment from the dangers of emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds entered into force in August 2017.


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