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The momentum toward mercury-free dentistry is gaining speed and, it appears, may be set to become a reality in the 21st century.

The final mercury treaty session took place in Geneva, Switzerland in January 2013. There the mercury treaty was finalized, and included important provisions to reduce and eliminate mercury pollution, one of them being a requirement for countries to phase down the use of dental amalgam (mercury fillings).

As Michael T. Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project, said:

“This is the beginning of the end of dental amalgam globally.”

Mercury Treaty Requires Countries to Phase Down the Use of Dental Amalgam

The treaty, which has been under negotiation for four years and could be signed as early as October, will require countries to undertake at least two of the prescribed steps to “phase down amalgam use.” Among those measures listed are these:

  • Setting national objectives aimed at minimizing (amalgam) use;
  • Promoting the use of cost-effective and clinically-effective mercury-free alternatives;
  • Encouraging professional societies and dental schools to educate and train dental professionals in the use of mercury-free dental restoration; and
  • Encouraging insurance policies and programs that favor the use of quality alternatives to amalgam.

Textbook Example of Citizen Power Challenging Corporate Power

 Though we did not yet achieve the phase-out of amalgam, we made progress like never before. Two key goals were achieved that are the next best thing. First, amalgam is the one product with a road map, a step-by-step approach, to reducing its use; it is the only mercury-based product with a plan.

Second, amalgam was kept in the annex, which means that a petition can later be filed to end amalgam altogether. (Had amalgam instead been placed in the body of the treaty instead of the treaty’s annex, this could not happen.) And this is in the biggest forum of them all — the world stage.

The five treaty sessions — from June 2010 through January 2013 — spanned almost 1,000 days. We have witnessed a textbook case for success against the odds. A combination of vision, of hard work, of building a team from six continents, of grassroots support beneath, and of a consistent message paid off.

The success of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, created upon the recommendation of and led by Consumers for Dental Choice, shows that citizen action still can make progress over corporate power.