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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 Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam
Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam PDF Print
Tuesday, 29 November 2016 15:30

   


Brussels, 29 November 2016

Civil society calls on EU decision makers to phase out dental amalgam

Europe will imminently decide the fate of dentistry’s most controversial procedure: the use of mercury-based dental fillings, known as amalgam.  It is condemned as a risk for “secondary poisoning” by a European Commission scientific advisory body because it gets into fish that people eat [1]. Furthermore, the Commission’s health advisory committee has recommended a ban on its use in fillings in children and pregnant women [2].

Representatives from the three European institutions, namely the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, will meet on 6 December to discuss the text of the EU regulation on mercury, including its use in dentistry. Europe is the largest amalgam user in the world, and consumer, health and environmental NGOs, as well as many dentists, are calling for a ban.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo of the European Environment Bureau said:

 “An ambitious regulation is needed to reduce the use of mercury in the EU and phase it out of dentistry. Members of the European Parliament have voted in favour of ending amalgam by 2022 (with special allowances for medical reasons) with a ban sooner for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children.  We agree - over 66% of dental fillings in the EU are now made without mercury and it is now time that this becomes the norm.”

The European Commission has also turned its back on the opinion of the European public.

Marie Grosman, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, said:

In the public consultation organized by the European Commission, 88% of participating Europeans recommended to phase out amalgam and 12% called for its use to be phased down. Since the Commission sought the vote of the people, why don’t they follow their advice?” 

Dentists once heavily used amalgam, but are abandoning it in droves with several Member States either disallowing its use (i.e. Sweden) or reducing it to less than 5% of all dental fillings (for example, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands). 

Dr Hans-Werner Bertelsen, a dentist from Bremen, Germany, said:

European dentists know the end is near for amalgam.  Alternatives are available, affordable, and effective. It is time for Europe to say good-bye to amalgam, a material clearly inferior to composite or ionomers.”

The environmental impact of dental amalgam is significant, impacting on air, water and land, and being taken up in the fish eaten by Europeans.

 

Philippe Vandendaele of Health Care Without Harm said:

Mercury is globally one of the 10 chemicals of major public health concern, yet the Commission proposes we maintain the status quo. Empirical evidence shows that due to technological changes and dentist training, the cost of mercury-free dentistry is declining, so the price differential continues to shrink.”

 

Indeed, the claim that amalgam is slightly cheaper than alternatives is illusory.

Johanna Hausmann of Women in Europe for a Common Future, added:

When amalgam’s disastrous impact on the environment is factored in, amalgam’s costs are as much as €82 more per filling than composite.  Continuing the use of amalgam does not even make economic sense.” [4]

A growing consensus is that Europe must, at the very least, ban amalgam use for children and pregnant women. 

Genon Jensen, Health & Environmental Alliance (HEAL) said:

We must first protect those most vulnerable to mercury’s neurotoxicity – the developing brains of children, babies, and foetuses.  Several nations, such as Germany, the UK and Poland, have already announced that they don’t use or that dentists should not use amalgam for children or pregnant women.”

Members of the European Parliament Michèle Rivasi (France), Stefan Eck (Germany) and Piernicola Piedicini (Italy) are circulating petitions in four languages to ban amalgam in Europe.  Signatories have already exceeded 17,000 names. 

Notes to the editor

[1] Opinion on Environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury from dental amalgam (update 2014)pdf(361 KB)

[2] Final opinion on the safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users (29 April 2015) pdf(794 KB)

[3] European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted on the mercury regulation on 13 October 2016, A8-0313/2016

[4] http://www.mercury-free.org/pressRoom_recentNews/April-2012/New-Economics-Report--The-Real-Costs-of-Dental-Mer.aspx

[5] A Joint NGO letter was sent on the 15 November, to EU Environment ministers, to the EU Health Ministers, and to the European Commission.

[6]The Minamata Convention requires each party to “phase down the use of dental amalgam.” Clearly out of step with the spirit and intent of the Convention, the Commission’s proposal would merely require the use of amalgam separators and encapsulated amalgam and not lead to a reduction in amalgam use.

It’s estimated that Europeans are storing upwards of 1,000 tonnes of mercury in their mouth which will eventually be released to the environment. (EEB-2007 Mercury in dental use :Implications for the European Union, Concord East/West)

[7] Petitions on dental amalgam

https://www.change.org/p/beatrice-lorenzin-stop-al-mercurio-nei-nostri-denti

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-f%C3%BCr-ein-amalgamverbot-in-der-zahnmedizin

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-pour-en-finir-avec-le-mercure-dentaire

https://www.change.org/p/jean-claude-juncker-let-s-ban-mercury-dental-fillings

For more information contact:

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, 0032 (0)2 289 1301, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philippa Nuttall Jones, EEB Communications Manager, 0032 (0)2 289 1309, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Philippe Vandendaele, Chemicals Policy Advisor, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe, 0032 (0) 2503 0481, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Aidan Long, Press & Communications Officer, HCWH Europe, 0032 (0) 2503 0481 / 0032 (0)465 100 940, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Diana G. Smith, Communications and Media Adviser, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), 0033 (0)1 55 25 25 84 / 0033 (0)6 33 04 2943, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Johanna Hausmann, WECF Chemicals and Health Project Coordination, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 0049 (0)89 232 3938 19

Chantal Van den Bossche, Coordinator Public Relations & Press WECF, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it