Negotiations continue as nations work to create a treaty on mercury
Governments from around the world met in Nairobi, Kenya to negotiate an international treaty on mercury, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The content of the mercury treaty, which will be finalized and adopted by 2013, has a broad scope of concern which might surprise many Americans. The major focus is centered on mercury emissions from burning coal, gold mining and people eating mercury-tainted fish. For those of us in the Western world, we may be aware of concerns for mercury used in dental amalgams and vaccines but on the international level toxic mercury fears revolve around such alarming practices as artisanal gold mining where up to one million child-miners worldwide are intimately exposed to mercury on a daily basis as part of the mining process. Clearly not a healthy practice for adults, much less children.
While the mercury debate back home may not be as alarmingly apparent, the issue remains one of the highest priorities of natural, holistic and biological dentists alike – and addressing the effort to eliminate mercury in dental fillings at the international level is Charles G. Brown, President of World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry. This effort is now bolstered by an announcement made earlier this year by the United States government stating that it supports a “phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out by all parties, of mercury amalgam.” This statement represents a radical reversal of its former position and continues with “any change toward the use of dental amalgam is likely to result in positive public health outcomes”. The full document was presented by the U.S. government at the 3rd round of negotiations for the world mercury treaty in November.
Charles G. Brown led a skilled team of professionals from five continents including dentists, a biologist, an international attorney with a background in human rights, and four nonprofit leaders with environmental expertise. The team participated in six grueling days of sessions, briefings and working groups and although no specifics were agreed to, developments in Nairobi have moved the cause forward substantially. “We have come a long way since the first session in Stockholm in 2010, when the cause of mercury-free dentistry was met with reactions ranging from indifference to hostility,” says Brown.
Some progress includes the fact that now there are regions as well as national governments openly advocating for “robust” treaty language addressing amalgam concerns. Thanks to the efforts of Amalgam-Free Africa Campaign, that nation now vocally supports the phase-out of amalgam. Australia also has come on board with the position of the United States – which supports addressing amalgam in the treaty.
Brown sites another major breakthrough was achieved when the World Health Organization (WHO) reversed its 2010 statement promoting amalgam as the “material of choice.” At that time the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry organized a worldwide protest that highlighted the glaring errors in the paper; demanding an investigation, which led to a total reversal of their position. Now WHO commits itself to “facilitate the work for a switch in use of dental materials” away from amalgam. Its key findings include; amalgam raises “general health concerns”, amalgam releases a “significant amount of mercury” into the environment, and “materials alternative to dental amalgam are now available.”
The World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry reports that it continues to gain a wide range of allies from key nonprofit organizations and consequently more and more highly qualified individuals are now reaching out to local governments, dentists, and dental consumers from all around the world. Preparations are now underway for the fourth negotiating session to be held next summer. Brown states that,”… our experienced international team will continue to navigate strategically this delicate diplomatic arena. We will continue our steady – and to date successful – march toward securing a treaty that aggressively addresses amalgam.” On behalf of all natural dentists everywhere we can only say, congratulations and keep up the good work Charlie!