This past summer, the European Commission proposed a total ban on mercury amalgam – a ban that would include not only the placement of amalgam fillings but the manufacture and export of amalgam, too.
Now, the European Parliament has voted on that proposal, and the ban is now set to become a reality on January 1, 2025.
“The era of dental amalgam is slowly coming to an end,” said Prof. Falk Schwendicke, head of the Department of Oral Diagnostics, Digital Health and Health Services Research at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany.
Of course, that end has been even slower coming here in the United States, although change has been happening. Even the FDA now cautions against the use of mercury amalgam in children; women who are nursing, pregnant, or who are planning on pregnancy; people with certain pre-existing conditions; and those who are sensitive to any components of dental amalgam.
And as Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice noted last summer once the proposal was announced,
For the United States and Canada, a win in Europe portends change here too. First, it would cut off imports of amalgam from Europe. Second, it strengthens our case to end amalgam use in U.S. government programs and Canadian federal programs. Third, it signals to the diehard mercury users at the American Dental Association that they should abandon this poison sooner rather than later because we’re going to win the battle for mercury-free dentistry!
Yet even with victory, the problem of mercury amalgam fillings will remain with us for decades to come, thanks to all of the amalgam fillings that are currently in people’s mouths. In addition to the personal health burden of those toxic restorations, at least some of the mercury in them returns to the environment as a pollutant. Dental workers who do procedures involving amalgam fillings are at risk, too, although these can be mitigated by following strict safety protocols, including the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART) that was developed by the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology to protect the health of patients, dental workers, and our environment.
In other words, the mercury that’s already been placed is still going to be with us for a very long time. Because of that, it isn’t just a mercury-free future we need to work towards but a mercury-SAFE future, as well.