Calls for mercury phase-out now growing

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Thursday, February 27, 2014


ANTI-MERCURY groups on Thursday called on dental institutions not to wait for 2016 any longer and instead move for the total and immediate phase-out of mercury-filled dental amalgams.

In a press conference, International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology Executive director Dr. Lilian Ebuen said there is a need to ban the use of dental amalgam sooner rather than later as provided by an earlier order by the Department of Health (DOH).

"We go to our doctors and dentists in order to be well, and mercury has no place in a healthy society. We need to uphold our Hippocratic oath as health practitioners, to help the sick and abstain from harming any person," said Ebuen.

Her call comes after learning of the study conducted by anti-toxic group, Ban Toxics, showing the presence of high level of mercury vapors in dental schools and supply stores.

Based on the study, the dental schools were found to have mercury vapor levels ranging from 1,120 ng/m3 to 35,617 ng/m3 in several areas within the institutions such as sinks, containers, phantom heads, and waste bins.

On the other hand, dental supply stores were found to have mercury vapor levels with an average of 5,797 ng/m3.

The amount of mercury vapor is way above the recommended standard of only 1,000 ng/m3, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

"The study of mercury levels in dental clinics and institutions provided evidence that mercury emissions from dental amalgams can be substantial and usually exceed general accepted human exposure limits," said the study titled "Mercury Vapor Levels in Dental Institutions."

"The continued use of dental amalgams, especially in schools, where this type of restoration is required to be undertaken by dental students, increases the risk of mercury hazard for the general population," it further said.

The study used the RA-915+TM in measuring the amount of mercury vapors in dental schools and supply stores.

It had involved two schools in the National Capital Region (NCR), one in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), one in Central Visayas, and one in Zamboanga Peninsula.

Three dental supply stores in Metro Manila, meanwhile, were subjected to the mercury vapor level readings.

Ban Toxics assistant coordinator for chemicals management Dr. Myline Macabuhay said that mercury actually comprises half (50 percent) of the dental amalgam, along with silver (22-32 percent), tin (14 percent), and copper (8 percent).

She said this is the reason why mercury vapors are not surprisingly abundant in dental institutions.

"The current state of dental amalgam instruction system in the Philippines are all contributing factors to the burgeoning mercury dilemma," said Macabuhay.

Exposure to mercury could cause pneumonia, bronchitis chest pain, stomatitis, diarrhea, excessive salivation as well as behavior changes, abnormal reflexes, and injuries to organs, such as, kidney, liver, brain, and colon.

Ebuen said dental practitioners, as well as dental schools must opt to use mercury-free procedures in order to ensure the absence of mercury exposure.

"Mercury-free alternatives are now widely-available, and are much safer but as cost effective as amalgam. Philippine dentistry should move beyond amalgam and we should prepare the future generation of dentists to embrace better and safer alternatives for their patients," said Ebuen. (HDT/Sunnex)

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