Groups push for mercury-free dental care

THE unregulated over-the-counter sale of liquid mercury that is used for dental fillings should cease in the interest of public health and safety.

The EcoWaste Coalition made this urgent proposal after the group’s AlerToxic Patrol managed to procure a small bottle of mercury for P280 from a dental supply store in Sampaloc, Manila along the University Belt.

The highly toxic chemical, contained in a delicate bottle with no label and precautionary information, was effortlessly procured with no question asked or certification for intended use demanded by the sales
person.

“We find it very disturbing to find out that such an extremely harmful chemical poison is sold in the most reckless way, which could result to mercury being released into the environment due to breakage, spillage or misuse and causing accidental and, God forbids, deliberate exposure to mercury. We need to stop such over-the-counter sale as if mercury is just a piece of candy. In fact, we should aim for mercury-free dental care,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The group immediately alerted the Department of Health through the Food and Drug Administration, which is now looking into the issue.

The group found an ally from a professional group, the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxiology (IAOMT-Philippines),that is working for mercury-free dentistry.

“As we push for phasing down strategies for reducing and eventually phasing out the use of mercury in dental amalgam, we see the need for the authorities to impose procedures that will severely restrict as soon as possible the importation, distribution and sale of mercury for dental use,” said Dr. Lillian Lasaten Ebuen, founding President, IAOMT-Philippines.

At a conference held on December 10, 2012 around the theme of “Philippines towards Mercury-Free Dentistry,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona told a conference co-organized by the IAOMT and World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentisty with the DOH about the “clandestine and covert” assault of mercury on human health.

“Mercury emits vapors that are colorless and odorless, which when inhaled, is absorbed into the bloodstream and cross the blood-brain and placental barrier. More often than not, human exposure to mercury occurs at such a low level that is ignored and forgotten,” he said.

The Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Mercury and Mercury Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 1997 warns that “mercury and mercury compounds are toxic to aquatic life
even at low concentrations, especially the methylated forms of mercury.”

Mercury, the CCO said, is known to bio-concentrate greatly in the food chain causing risks to humans who become ecological receptors through fish ingestion,and resulting to neurological disorders through the inhalation of mercury vapors and ingestion of methylated forms of mercury.

While not banning the use of mercury in dental amalgam, the CCO stipulates strict handling requirements that should be adhered to.

According to the CCO, any container or vessel containing mercury must be properly labeled and that the label should indicate the mercury and mercury compound content, precautions required in its handling and
emergency response measures to be taken in case of spillage or any untoward incident.

A chemical safety workshop on mercury organized by the EcoWaste Coalition recommended a review and revision of the 15-year old CCO to proactively prevent and control the dispersion of mercury from known pollution sources, including mercury in products, processes and wastes.

Governments and other stakeholders are meeting in Geneva next week to continue negotiating for a global legally-binding treaty to address mercury pollution, which remains “a major global, regional and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

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