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New treaty’s entry into force set to curtail global mercury crisis, say NGOs

BRUSSELS - 16 AUGUST 2017
TODAY’S ENTRY INTO FORCE OF THE MINAMATA CONVENTION ESTABLISHES THE FIRST NEW MULTILATERAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENT IN OVER A DECADE.  THE ZERO MERCURY WORKING GROUP* HAS BEEN CALLING FOR A LEGALLY BINDING TREATY FOR OVER A DECADE AND WELCOMES THE NEW PROTOCOL.

“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere”
“Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally.  This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention enters into force today 16 August. 

“We are now on the right track,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. 

“Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.

The aim of the Convention is "to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.  In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

ENDS 

For more information, see:

http://www.mercuryconvention.org/Negotiations/COP1/tabid/5544/language/en-US/Default.aspx

www.zeromercury.org

Contacts 

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes to the editors:

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children. 

*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe's largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.

We have over 140 members in over 30 countries.

EC register for interest representatives: Identification number 06798511314-27
International non-profit association - Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL)

 
Home Press Releases The real cost of dental mercury revealed
The real cost of dental mercury revealed PDF Print
Thursday, 22 March 2012 16:50
EEB LOGO FINAL

The real cost of dental mercury revealed

 

[Thursday 22/3/2012, Brussels, Belgium] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EEB[i], Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organizations, has released a new report The Real Cost of Dental Mercury,” showing that dental amalgam is much more costly than the alternatives when so-called “external” costs to society are factored in. This report contributes to the EU discussions on potentially phasing out dental amalgam, vis-à-vis the presentation of a draft EC study on Monday 26 March, in Brussels[ii]. The EEB has repeatedly called for a phase out of mercury in dentistry[iii], a threat to human health and nature that many of us carry around in our mouths.  

“The calculations in the report confirm that amalgam is by no means the least expensive tooth filling material when the external costs to society are also taken into account,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator, Zero Mercury Campaign. “Amalgam’s negative environmental effects are increasingly well known in the EU and globally. Ultimately, it is society that pays for the uncontrolled releases of mercury from amalgam use through additional pollution control costs, the loss of common (publicly-owned) resources, and the health effects associated with mercury contamination. ”

The report demonstrates that the basic cost of an “equivalent” amalgam filling in the US is around 109 Euros compared to 140 Euros for an “equivalent” composite filling.  However, the report then shows that even using conservative assumptions, when the real cost (to the environment and society at large) of amalgam is accounted for, amalgam turns out to be significantly more costly than composite as a filling material, by up to 66 Euro for a single filling,[iv].

‘While this report focuses on amalgam use only in the U.S., this case can serve as a valuable example also for the EU, said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, ‘Amalgam is already banned in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and severely restricted in Germany and Finland.  These experiences clearly show there is scarcely any clinical situation in which the use of amalgam might be necessary. Clearly, there is every reason to accelerate the shift to mercury-free dentistry’.

In summary, the environmental concerns, the substitution principle, and the precautionary principle regarding direct health effects from amalgams all show the need for an amalgam phase out. Yet now another clear reason is provided: amalgam is far from being a bargain, and is in fact significantly more costly than composites.  EEB is therefore urging the European Commission and Member States to act immediately to phase out the use of mercury in the dental sector as quickly as possible.

 

Contacts

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, T: +32 2 2891301, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Alison Abrahams Communications Officer, European Environmental Bureau +32 (0) 2289 13 09 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes to the editor

[1] In the EU, mercury in dental tooth fillings is the second largest use of mercury, comprising 23.5% of the annual  consumption, equal to 90-110 tonnes of mercury in 2007 - COM(2010) 723 final, COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on the review of the Community Strategy Concerning Mercury

[2] The new report describes in detail, and costs out the significant contribution of dental mercury waste to the environment, including: to the soil and into the air via wastewater sludge, burial, atmospheric deposition; to the atmosphere via cremation; to surface waters, and eventually to the groundwater. Since high quality and cost-effective alternatives – including composites, glass ionomers and “compomers” – are readily available, this report therefore concludes, from both an environmental and societal cost perspective, that dental amalgam should be phased out.   

[3] Adverse effects on the environment and society over the whole life cycle of dental amalgam[v] are also clearly demonstrated in the recent draft BIOS report for the European Commission.   They can only be sustainably avoided by phasing out amalgam as a dental restorative material and switching to mercury-free alternatives.

Relevant documents

EEB/ZMWG/HEAL/HCWH/WFPHA Letter to EU Environment Ministers: Support for phase-outs of mercury use in dentistry in the EU and globally (146.80 kB) , 23 February 2012

Mercury in Dental Use: Environmental Implications for the European Union (689.69 kB) 01 May 2007

Report from the conference 'Dental Sector as a Source of Mercury Contamination', Brussels, 25 May 2007 (1.22 MB) 01 October 2007



[i] Mercury Policy Project and Consumers for Dental Choice will be co-releasing the report shortly in the US.

[iii] EEB/ZMWG/HEAL/HCWH/WFPHA Letter to EU Environment Ministers: Support for phase-outs of mercury use in dentistry in the EU and globally, http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&;view=file&id=156:eeb-zmwg-heal-hcwh-letter-to-eu-environment-ministers-support-for-phase-outs-of-mercury-use-in-dentistry-in-the-eu-and-globally&Itemid=15

[iv] Cost of amalgam filling is 144 USD (109 Euro), and cost of composite is 185 USD (140Euro). Two approaches are analysed; one adds an extra 41-67 USD (31-51 Euro) to the commercial cost of the filling if we consider the additional cost required to keep dental mercury out of the environment. Tthe second adds (60-128 USD) 45-97 Euro to the commercial cost of amalgam when quantifying the benefits for people and the environment that would result from a phase-out of mercury use in dentistry. These would include such benefits as reduced health costs, reduced environmental effects, additional jobs created, etc.  In most cases these benefits are simply the same as “avoided costs.”     Therefore on average when external costs are considered the cost of amalgam would be up to 87 USD (66 Euro) more, than the cost of composite.

[v] Including: mercury production, preparation of filling materials, removal of old fillings and placement of new ones, and environmental and health impacts from mercury recycling, sewage discharges, waste disposal and releases from crematoria and cemeteries