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Summary of the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury

24th-29th September, Geneva, Switzerland.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) closely followed the First Conference of the Parties for the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) in Geneva, Switzerland, 24th-29th of September 2017 and intervened as appropriate[1]. We were pleased to see the COP1 reached consensus on pending matters from prior meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee (INC) which resulted in establishing an effective Convention operational framework for achieving significant mercury reductions.

Our main priorities for COP1 included adoption of forms and guidance that was approved at INC 7, and addressing the issues of reporting, waste thresholds, interim storage guidelines, effectiveness evaluation, and matters for future action, which included the following decisions.

  • Article 3 guidance on identifying mercury stocks, and the forms/instructions for complying with mercury trade consent and related certification requirements;
  • The product and process exemption forms and associated register of exemptions under Article 6 of the Convention; a registrar will be kept by the Secretariat and these will also be available to the public
  • Article 8 (air emissions) guidance on BAT/ BEP, options for existing facility control requirements, preparing emissions inventories, and selection of “relevant sources” within the specified source categories; and
  • The Guidance for preparing the ASGM National Action Plan (NAP) under article 7.

COP1 also saw significant progress concerning various other ZMWG priorities, including :

Reporting:          Forms were adopted for use by Parties to report back on the measures undertaken to meet Convention obligations and on the effectiveness of those measures.  In particular, ZMWG most welcomed the decision for a shorter reporting cycle for supply and trade, reporting per year data on a biennial basis. For other obligations, Parties will report every four years. It was also agreed that each Party will submit its first biennial report by 31 December 2019 and its first full report by December 2021. Parties are also encouraged to submit an electronic form,  and the Secretariat is requested to make the Parties electronic reports available.

Furthermore, it was agreed that Parties would provide access to their data related to mercury emissions, under Article 8. Parties would also provide the rational on how they plan to ensure that facilities responsible for at least 75% of the emissions from a source category are subject to controls.

Waste Thresholds:          COP1 established an intercessional work group to further elaborate on waste thresholds, building on a document introduced by Japan. As recommended by NRDC/ZMWG, the terms of reference for the working group were focused more on determining which mercury wastes warrant thresholds rather than assuming thresholds are appropriate for all wastes. The expert group will identify the types of waste that fall within the categories specified in paragraph 2 of Article 11, provide related information; prioritising the types of waste identified that are most relevant for the establishment of waste thresholds, and identify possible approaches to establishing any needed thresholds for those prioritised waste for consideration at COP2. We were also pleased to see COP1 approving the participation of civil society within the working group, another ZMWG priority.

Interim Storage:                             COP1 requested the Secretariat to undertake further revision of the draft guidelines through input from relevant experts, including technical experts from the Basel Convention and present a revised draft for consideration at COP2. Provisional use of the current draft guidelines is encouraged.

Effectiveness Evaluation:             COP1 adopted a draft road map for establishing arrangements both for providing comparable monitoring data and elements of an effectiveness evaluation framework, as ZMWG had sought.  To that end an ad hoc group of experts was established including 25 experts nominated by the Parties – 5 per region, as well as 10 civil society experts, including NGOs, as observers.

Matters for Future Action (Article 3) - (Article 14):              Several matters were brought up for consideration. Under Article 3, trade in mercury compounds was one of several issued identified for future consideration by the COP. In regards to Article 14 – Capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer, Parties and other stakeholder were invited to submit relevant information on capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer for the Secretariat to compile and present at COP2.

Despite progress made, challenges remain, both related to the location and structure of the Minamata Convention Secretariat and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the financial mechanism of the Convention with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The Secretariat will be temporarily located in Geneva, with further review of arrangements at COP2.

In summary, the final road map is now in place to ‘zero down’ global mercury pollution, but critical work remains.   ZMWG looks forward to a productive second meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Geneva 19-23 November 2018.   

[1] All ZMWG interventions are available on our website http://www.zeromercury.org/index.php?option=com_content&;;view=article&id=309:unenvironment-minamata-mercury-cop1-24-29-september-2017-geneva-switzerland&catid=54:developments-main-category&Itemid=104

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

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.



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