Stakeholders Call for End to Dental Amalgam

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Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City

Government at all levels in Africa have been called upon to phase out dental amalgam in dentistry. The call was made in Benin City, capital of Edo State, by stakeholders at a briefing on phasedown of dental amalgam in Nigeria.

The stakeholders comprised Edo State Ministries of Health and Environment, represented by Mrs. H. C. Enunwaonye and Mr. Godfrey Edwin, respectively; Charles Brown, President, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry; secretary, Nigeria Dental Association, Edo State, Dr. Abhulimen Franklin; Executive Director, SRADER Nigeria/Chairman, Civil Society Group on phase-out Dental Amalgam use in Nigeria, Dr. Reslie Adohame; and Dr. Phillip Goddie of the University of Benin, among others.

In their goodwill messages, the various stakeholders, listed the harmful effects of amalgam to include, neurological and reproductive problems such damage to the brain, kidney and foetuses.

According to them, much of mercury from amalgam released into the environment can contaminate fish and damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems.

In his welcome address, the National Vice Chairman, Civil Society Group on phase down of Dental Amalgam in Nigeria, Dr. Tom Aneni, said the stakeholders meeting was a follow-up to a similar forum held October 31 last year. Aneni said amalgam was a chemical substance used by dentists to fill cavities during treatment, adding that it contains mercury, which is of global concern owing to its long range atmospheric transport, persistent in the environment.

According to him, “Dental Amalgam, a filling for cavities, is about 50 per cent mercury, a neurotoxin and a pollutant that knows no borders.”

He disclosed that Nigeria became a signatory to the Minamata Convention on mercury in Kumamoto, Japan in October 2013 and February 2018, making it the 88th country to ratify that convention.

Aneni added that the objective of the stakeholders’ meeting was to mark the civil society consensus to end amalgam use for children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women in Edo State by July 1, 2018.

He further pointed out that emphasis on children became necessary because they are important agents of change to invest in, with a view to addressing multidimensional deprivations, harnessing demographic dividend and empowering them to build a more prosperous future. He added that health impacts linked to childhood exposure to mercury often do not manifest for years and could include cancer, developmental disorder and learning disabilities.

Aneni added that on phasedown of dental amalgam, women were the first contact and educator of the child, noting that throughout their lives, women are exposed to harmful chemicals, including amalgam that can be transferred across the placenta during foetal development and through breast milk to the nursing infant.

“Amalgam exposures in the womb or in early childhood may cause lifelong harm. Exposures in the foetal development increase the risk of such harmful effects as preterm births, birth defects, childhood and adult diseases. Adverse effects can be carried across multiple generations,” he said.