An EU-wide ban on the use of mercury in the dental fillings of children and pregnant women came into effect in July. Now NGOs are calling on governments to implement it fully.

EU governments must require dentists to immediately adhere to a ban on the use of mercury in the dental fillings of children under the age of 15 and pregnant as well as for pregnant and breastfeeding women, consumer and environmental groups said in a statement.

Dental amalgam is the metallic substance used by dentists to fill gaps in decaying teeth and it is 50% mercury.

The ban came into effect on July 1, almost a year after the European Union adopted the new mercury regulation. The aim of the ban is to protect human health at an early stage of development.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that pollutes the environment and gets taken up the food chain. Research has found that if ingested or inhaled it can damage the nervous, renal and cardiovascular systems.

The United Nations also require governments to reduce its use under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

According to the new EU regulation:

“The use of mercury in dental amalgam is the largest use of mercury in the Union and a significant source of pollution. The use of dental amalgam should therefore be phased down in accordance with the [Minamata] Convention and with national plans […]“ 

The new rules also require EU countries to establish a national plan by July 1 2019 to phase down dental amalgam use.  In addition, the regulation requires the European Commission to assess by mid 2020 the feasibility of phasing out dental amalgam use entirely.

Mercury is used heavily in dentistry, but it is easily replaceable, according to experts.

The regulation allows dentists to use dental amalgam in cases where they feel there is a medical need. But this should only account for a very small proportion of cases.

Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager “Zero Mercury Campaign” at the European Environmental Bureau, told META:

“The European Commission and EU governments need to ensure that dentists apply the ban straight away, and verify whether the use of exemption is really necessary. EU authorities should further ensure that citizens are made aware of these provisions.”