The peak business organisation representing dental product manufacturers and suppliers, the Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA) has backed proposals for the Australian Government to run a national communications campaign promoting voluntary installation of dental amalgam waste traps and separators. The proposal is associated with the likely ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The interests of the dental industry rest in the fact that dental amalgam is one of three products that represent the most significant sources of mercury in this category, the other two being pesticides and dental amalgam.
Dental amalgam contains approximately 50% mercury and is used in around one-quarter of new fillings. As a result of the dental industry's development of new and innovative pathways, dental professionals have now adopted the use of alternative, non-mercury containing products such as resin composite and glass-ionomer in the majority of their dental restoration work.
"Although the use of dental amalgam is showing a sustained decrease in Australia, mercury may be released into the environment from the removal of existing amalgams from patients during dental procedures such as replacement fillings, crowns and extractions," said Troy Williams, ADIA Chief Executive Officer.
Extracted amalgam materials are either rinsed into sewage systems or are disposed of as municipal waste. There is currently no national regulation governing the use, control or release of mercury waste from dental practices.
The Australian Government has accepted advice from ADIA that the best management practice to reduce mercury releases from dental facilities is to install traps and separators that collect the mercury-containing waste before it enters the sewage system; the trapped waste can then be recycled for reuse as dental amalgam.
"The Australian Government is proposing that after ratification of the Convention, it runs a national communications campaign promoting voluntary installation of dental amalgam waste traps and separators. This recommendation is supported by ADIA without qualification," Mr Williams said.
Australian Government documents estimate that this measure would collect approximately 1,300 kilograms of mercury each year.
"ADIA looks forward to working with the Australian Government as it moves towards ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and then putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure that Australia meets its obligations," Mr Williams concluded.