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World Will Be Two Steps Closer To Abating Mercury Damage

CHAMPIONSGATE, Fla., July 12, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This summer, the world is taking two essential steps toward abating the damage caused by dental mercury fillings.

Actions by both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to restrict the use of dental mercury are being commended by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), a network of dentists, scientists, and other professionals. They have been researching the deleterious effects of dental mercury since 1984 and began calling for a complete ban on mercury fillings in 1985.

The EPA utilized measures in the Clean Water Act to develop standards requiring that dental offices install amalgam separators. This requirement will go into effect on Friday, July 14, and the EPA has estimated that it could reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons annually.

Now, the IAOMT is calling for the next steps needed to fully protect the globe from the adverse effects of dental mercury on human health and the environment. All silver-colored dental fillings, often called "amalgams," contain approximately 50% mercury. Dental mercury is known to pollute waterways and wildlife, and it is the predominant source of mercury exposure to people who have these fillings in their bodies. This creates an array of potential health risks for these patients.

Amalgam separators reduce mercury released from dental offices into the environment. For this reason, the EPA utilized measures in the Clean Water Act to develop standards requiring that dental offices install amalgam separators.

This requirement will go into effect on Friday, July 14, and the EPA has estimated that it could reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons annually.
However, the IAOMT notes that the EPA should also require routine maintenance for amalgam separators so that they do not fail and so that additional releases of mercury do not occur. It should also be remembered that amalgam separators only reduce dental mercury in wastewater and do not address the impact of mercury/silver fillings on human health.

Meanwhile, UNEP's Minamata Convention on Mercury will enter into force on August 16. This global agreement to reduce mercury usage includes initiatives to phase down the use of dental mercury. As part of this effort, a new EU mercury regulation plans to prohibit the use of dental mercury amalgam for vulnerable populations (pregnant or breastfeeding women, children under 15 years old), require amalgam separators in dental offices, and provide for discussion about ending dental mercury use in the European Union by 2030.

A number of countries have already banned or strictly limited the use of dental mercury. Shockingly, the use of mercury in dentistry continues in the US without any restrictions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that pregnant women, children, and all other American populations are still having mercury fillings placed in their mouths. Subpopulations in the US known to have higher rates of mercury filling placement include Black/African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives/Asians/Pacific Islanders, and members of the United States Armed Forces.

"The world is getting healthier this summer with these latest actions against dental mercury," IAOMT President Tammy DeGregorio, DMD, ND stated. "But to truly protect people and the environment, the use of dental mercury must completely end for all patients, all dental offices, and all global regions."


Dental Mercury's Toxic Journey


IAOMT presents a clear picture of how dental amalgam finds its way into the environment. Like coal and mining industries, mercury released by the dental sector is quite significant. Check out this 5 minute video. Click here for the jump.

Bantay Ngipin 2017

Dental amalgam fillings, erroneously known as "silver fillings"€, is composed of 50 percent mercury and has been the dominant dental restorative material for the past century. Due to its low-cost and durability, it has been the dental restorative material of choice in low and middle class countries such as the Philippines. However, mercury is a neurotoxin and exposure can produce harmful effects such as neurological and behavioral disorders, lung and kidney problems, and even death. Children and women of child-bearing age are particularly vulnerable to mercury poisoning.

The International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) in the Philippines is aiming to reduce dental mercury use in the country via addressing caries prevalence through basic dental health education and care. IAOMT believes that the best cure to dental health problems is prevention and it is vital to teach children and other sectors the importance of observing nutrition and proper dental care.


altOur "Bantay Ngipin"€ program, dismisses the idea that dental health care is a luxury. Since its inception in 2009, IAOMT-Philippines has been actively promoting and providing dental health care and services to communities. In 2014, IAOMT-Philippines launched a partnership with Gota de Leche, a non-profit organization working to fill the nutritional needs of children.

IAOMT is looking to supplement this important public service by reaching out to other communities. And as such, we joined forces with the Behavioral Sciences Department of the University in the Philippines in Manila to help bring our campaign outside the National Capital Region.


With the assistance of Prof. Tess de Guzman and her team, we were able to extend our "Bantay Ngipin" project to Barangay Palis,an Aeta resettlement area in Botolan, Zambales.


On our first visit, we conducted distributed tooth brushes and taught children proper tooth brushing. Later, our volunteer dentists - Dr. Avelina Jahns and Dr, Estrelita Pensotes - together with Dr, Lillian Ebuen, provided basic dental services to the children in the community.

We wish to continue our "Bantay Ngipin"€ program and eventually reach out to other communities in dire need of dental services. We believe that through sustained education, services, and monitoring; IAOMT-Philippines will help in reducing dental caries prevalence and the use of dental amalgam fillings.


WAMFD's Charles Brown and IAOMT-Phils Pushes for Mercury-Free Dentistry


Atty. Brown with IAOMT-Phils' Dr Ebuen, EMB-DENR's ASec Cuna and Ms. Beng Pausing

Citing the recent move of the European Union to ban the use of mercury fillings (aka dental amalgam), Charles Brown of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry (WAMFD) reiterated that the country needs to follow suit and immediately address the continued use of the dental material.

As one of the leading figures in mercury-free dentistry and a staunch advocate of consumer rights, Charles Brown played a key role in highlighting the dangers of dental amalgam. This month, Brown met with IAOMT-Philippines' Dr, Lillian Lasaten-Ebuen and several Philippine government officials to commend them on their efforts. He mentions the Department of Health (DOH) and the Environment Management Bureau (EMB-DENR) for their current push to phase-out the use of dental mercury.

However, Brown also pointed out that the proposed phase-down/phase-out needs to be implemented soon or else the country is at risk of becoming a dumping ground for dental mercury. Dr, Ebuen likewise stated that the continued use of dental amalgam, particularly in dental colleges, exposes dentistry students, faculty, and patients to unnecessary health risks.

"The recent accidental spilling of liquid mercury in a public school in Manila, reminds us again, that the use and presence of neurotoxins such as mercury should never be allowed in the academic setting."€ Dr Ebuen said.

Currently, IAOMT-Philippines is campaigning for a change in the dental curriculum, urging the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to put focus on mercury-alternatives instead of requiring students to learn dental restoration via dental amalgam application. With the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the support of the DOH and the EMB-DENR, Dr. Ebuen is optimistic that the CHED will heed IAOMT-Philippines' call and eventually overhaul the dental curriculum to suit the country's commitment to the Convention.

Dental colleges in other countries, such as the NYU's College of Dentistry have already adopted policies to limit dental amalgam use. Stressing environment protection more than health concerns, the college's policy is still a significant challenge to dental mercury.


WAMFD's Charles Brown recognizing OLFU's Dean De Leon's efforts in minimizing dental amalgam use

Fortunately for CHED, the commission does not need to look any further as the Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) has adopted a similar policy. Dr. Arturo de Leon, Dean of the College of Dentistry, clarified that the college's policy is in line with the government's environment guidelines and it does not affect the training and education quality that their dentistry students receive.

As such, Dr De Leon stresses that while the college's programme limits dental amalgam use, the college does not contradict the stand of the Philippine Association of Dental Colleges (PDAC) on dental amalgam and still adheres to GV Black's amalgam formula. "There is no question when it comes to mercury's environmental effects but more data is needed when it comes to proving or disproving effects on human health once bound in amalgam fillings."€

Brown recognized that although OLFU's Dental College is not 100 percent mercury-free, its ingenuity in limiting the use of dental amalgam and exposing the environment to its ill effects should be recognized and applauded. As the country is preparing to meet its obligations under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, OLFU's Dental College could serve as a role model for dental colleges.


Mercury Has No Place In Schools


The recent chemical spill in Manila Science High School is proof that the use of dangerous chemicals, particularly mercury should be completely removed from the curriculum. According to the latest reports, the spill exposed a number of students and school staff and two of those exposed have already developed skin rashes - one of the many symptoms accompanying mercury exposure and poisoning.

While there were other chemicals spilt, mercury is of chief concern for us. As a neurotoxin, physical contact or the inhalation of its vapors can lead to a number of symptoms including headaches, mood swings, neuromuscular changes, respiratory illnesses, and in severe cases - even death.

In 2006, a similar incident happened in another school in another city and has left one student dealing with the effects of mercury exposure. To avoid further untoward incidents, the DOH and the DENR has initiated a phase-out of mercury and mercury-containing products in health care institutions.

However, mercury is still largely present in the dental health sector, mainly among dental colleges. With a curriculum that puts heavy emphasis on dental amalgam use, dentistry students are required to work with these mercury-laden fillings to pass the course. Often, aside from the lack of info on proper amalgam handling and waste disposal; the students are not informed of the health risks involved and are left to handle dental amalgam fillings without wearing any protective gear.

As a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Philippines has a responsibility to phase-down - if not totally phase-out - the use of mercury and mercury-containing products, and this includes dental amalgam fillings. For the past years, IAOMT-Philippines has been consistently calling for the overhaul of the dental curriculum and to limit the exposure of dentistry students and faculty to mercury vapors.

Mercury poses serious health risks and its continued presence in HS laboratories and dental colleges only puts students, faculty, and the entire school community to unwarranted hazards. The availability of upgraded, aesthetic, and modern dental fillings make mercury fillings redundant.

Again, we are urging the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to consider the safety and health of our dental college faculty, staff, and dentistry students. We urge these organizations to assess the current dental curriculum and bring an end to a century old restoration material.

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