ENVIRONMENTAL justice watchdog BAN Toxics praised the Department of Health (DOH) and Secretary Francisco Duque III for passing Administrative Order No. 2020-0020, effectively phasing-out mercury use in dental restorative procedures. With the phase out, the Administrative Order positions the country in protecting vulnerable populations particularly pregnant women, children, and those with compromised immune systems.
Mercury and mercury compounds are toxic chemicals with negative effects on human health and the environment. The World Health Organization listed mercury as one of their top chemicals of major health concern. Dental amalgam is a silver-colored material used to fill teeth with cavities and is made up of 50% mercury and other materials including silver and tin.
“This is a landmark regulation coming from the DOH, amidst our collective struggle against COVID-19, and affirms the Department’s continued focus in protecting and nurturing the health of Filipinos,” said Reynaldo San Juan Jr., Executive Director of BAN Toxics. “The order is also a recognition of other threats from toxic chemicals Filipinos are facing, and that the DOH is taking decisive action against toxins, such as mercury.”
The Administrative Order provides a comprehensive policy in the elimination of dental amalgam in the country and sets forth guidelines governing the importation, manufacture, distribution and sale of dental amalgam, and establishes health and safety guidelines in the handling, use, storage and disposal of dental amalgams among dental workers and students, and patients. The Order also aims to raise awareness on alternative dental restorative materials and identify several measures to strengthen the advocacy on dental caries prevention and oral health.
In 2014, BAN Toxics conducted a study on the mercury vapor levels in dental institutions. Mercury emission in 5 dental institutions and 3 dental clinics that were tested exceeded the general accepted human exposure limits and provided proof that mercury vapors can be emitted by amalgam fillings.
On May 29, 2020, 15 days from the effectivity of the Order, the importation of elemental mercury for use in dental restorative procedures and dental amalgam capsules is banned in the Philippines. The Order also immediately puts a stop to the use of dental amalgam for children fourteen years old and below, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
“The global community lauds the steps taken by Secretary Duque and the Department of Health for this visionary order that will protect the lives and health of so many Filipino children,” said Charlie Brown, President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, a US-based non-profit working with BAN Toxics on the phase out of dental amalgam. “Global fish stocks will be a bit safer to eat, dental office employees will be better protected in the workplace, and future generations will not face the health risk of this mercury exposure.”
“We look forward to a new day in our country, as the Philippine dental community, finally closes the chapter on dental amalgam, and embraces toxics-free alternatives,” stated Dra. Lillian Ebuen, founder of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Technology, Philippines.
“Our work does not stop here. Sec. Duque has delivered the first punch against mercury, and Pres. Duterte can deliver the knockout punch by ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury now. The treaty has been languishing unratified for two years. We urge President Duterte, knockout mercury, ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury now,” exclaimed San Juan.
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