UNEP Treaty on Mercury
In February 2009, the Governing Council (GC) of UNEP adopted Decision 25/5 on the development of a global legally binding instrument on mercury. The GC tasked governments to negotiate the treaty through a series of five conferences, called Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) meetings. Beginning in 2010, this series of five meetings was concluded in January 2013 in Geneva.
On Saturday, 19 January 2013, Governments agreed to the text of the global legally binding instrument on mercury and gave birth to the “Minamata Convention on Mercury”.
Oral Health and environment protected under Minamata Convention
FDI World Dental Federation has welcomed the outcome of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) International Negotiating Committee (INC5), which closed on 19 January. It said that both Oral Health and the environment will be protected under the resulting international treaty on mercury, called the Minamata Convention.
The Minimata Convention will regulate a range of areas, including the use of mercury in products and industrial processes. During the Geneva negotiations, consensus built around the phase-down approach to dental amalgam advocated by both FDI and the World Health Organization.
Improving Oral Health
Dental amalgam, a compound containing mercury, is a key restorative material in the fight against dental caries, the cause of tooth decay, which afflicts 90 percent of the world's population, making it a global public health issue. FDI had advocated a reduction in the use of dental amalgam—versus a ban—through a greater focus on dental prevention and health promotion, increased research and development on alternatives, and best management techniques for amalgam waste.
This is identical to the position of the WHO Oral Health Programme, world leader in the area, and supported by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). FDI, whose key objective is to improve world oral health, supports the approach to dental amalgam as laid down in the future Convention.
Public health and environmental safety
“The solution proposed by the treaty advances both public health and environmental safety directly”, emphasized FDI President Dr Orlando Monteiro da Silva (Portugal), reacting to INC5 results.
“We are also pleased that the proposed treaty recognizes the need for national programmes to prevent oral disease and calls for more research into developing new alternative materials. FDI supports a phased down approach based on prevention, research for new dental filling materials and use of best management practices," concluded Dr da Silva.
INC5, which brought together over 140 countries, is the culmination of a process launched in 2009 to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury. Its result is the adoption of a wide-ranging agreement that aims to reduce mercury emissions and releases into the air, water and land.
The agreement addresses the supply of and trade in mercury, use of mercury in products and industrial processes, measures to be taken to reduce emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold mining, measures to be taken to reduce emissions from power plants and metals production facilities, storage and treatment of waste containing mercury.
The future convention will be signed in Minamata later this year—hence the name—and will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries. Minimata is the town in Japan that suffered one of the worst ever cases of mercury poisoning.
A tool to inform and advise
The FDI Advocacy toolkit aims to inform and advise National Dental Associations (NDAs) with regard to the development of the treaty on mercury to enable them to act effectively within tight deadlines. It is based on FDI policy statements and General Assembly resolutions and should equip NDAs with the necessary knowledge for their meetings with politicians, government officials, the press and other stakeholders.