By last year, 2020, more than 40 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including Children’s Environmental Health Foundation (CEHF) of (Zambia) were celebrating the 7th Africa Day for Mercury-free Dentistry, an event that solidifies the strides that the CSOs have been making towards having mercury-free dentistry in their respective countries.
Until today, the celebration culminated into a memorable agenda that spearheads the African Amalgam Amendment in Minamata Convention a reality for this year’s Fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention (COP4).
In fact, after signing the “Abuja Declaration” in 2014, calling for Africa to be the first continent on the planet to end the use of mercury in dental care, Africa CSOs developed a plan in Abidjan in 2015 to implement the Abuja Declaration.
The “Abidjan Plan” presented key objectives and strategies to achieve a real phase out of dental amalgam on the continent. The CSOs also set every October 13th (or the fortnight around that date) to be the day to raise awareness on a specific issue towards phase out of dental amalgam in
After several campaigns, voices of these CSOs have been echoed by African countries who officially asked in November 2019 – through the African Amalgam Amendment – a clear date for a phase out of dental amalgam in the whole world.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.
It is for this reason that some CSOs like the Children’s Environmental Health Foundation dedicated this day as a call on governments to start making amalgam a history by imposing a total ban of dental amalgam in milk teeth and in pregnant and nursing women.
Dental amalgam fillings contain 50% mercury, a major neurotoxin. Its continuous use is no longer justifiable as alternatives have been established and have proved to be more affordable, effective, and available in Africa.
The restriction of its use is demanded worldwide in the Minamata Convention on Mercury, adopted by more than 140 governments including Zambia in Kumamoto Japan.
This Convention which entered into force on the 16th of August 2017, held its first conference of Parties from 24th to 29th September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The theme of COP1 was to “Make Mercury History” showing the international will to deal with mercury including dental amalgam.
Since then, there have been so many debates towards this campaign to phase out dental amalgam by 2024.
To end use of dental amalgam in children/milk teeth is seen as a possible feat as Mercury-free dental restorative materials are far less expensive as compared to dental amalgam when environmental and societal costs are factored in.
Children’s Environmental Health Foundation (CEHF) Chairperson Michael Musenga states that the cost of using mercury-free options (including retreatment) was about half the cost of amalgam without retreatment, making this mercury-free technique significantly more affordable in low-income communities, particularly in areas without electricity or dental clinics.
Mr. Musenga called on the government of Zambia and other governments in Africa to support the African Amendment so to make amalgam history starting by ending its use in African children’s teeth, pregnant and nursing women too.
He stated that globally, amalgam use was lowest in Africa, and that the continent was almost done with being successful at phasing out amalgam use in dentistry.
The CEHF Chairperson explained that several African nations had already developed regulations, policies, and guidelines to phase out amalgam in their territories.
Meanwhile, World Alliance’s on Mercury-Free Dentistry vice-president for Africa, Dominique Bally stated that African region had started ending amalgam use in children and in women despite developing countries using the continent as an amalgam damp site.
“Sending amalgam for use in African children and other vulnerable population is not charity or humanitarian assistance, it is an environmental health disaster, and we can no longer accept that,” he expressed.
Mr. Bally explained that countries like Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Togo, Tunisia, and Zambia were intensively advocating against the use of dental amalgam.
“It should be possible to phase out dental mercury in the continent amalgam since it uses the lowest amount of about 10% of annual global mercury consumption which also contributes to 260-340 metric tons of mercury pollution around the world each year.”
Tapela Lungu is an award-winning writer and former Media and Communication studies student at the University of Zambia who has a strong passion to write, read and explore. He was the Managing Editor for the online magazine. As a writer, he has a strong interest in human interest stories, community news and stories that impact human development and health.
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