The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. This Convention was a result of three years of meetings and negotiations, after which the text of the Convention was signed by delegates from 140 countries on 19 January 2013. The Convention is named after the Japanese city Minimata. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning. It is expected that over the next few decades, this international agreement will enhance the reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury was ratified in August 2017. As stated in the Convention’s preamble, protection of human health and the environment includes awareness “of health concerns, especially in developing countries resulting from exposure to mercury of vulnerable populations, especially women, children and future generations,” In Part II of the Convention’s Annex A, Parties are to take measures to phase down the use of dental amalgam, including (but not limited to) “two or more” of the nine provisions listed, and taking into account “the parties’ domestic circumstances and relevant international guidance.”
Nigeria signed the Minamata treaty on 10 October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan, and ratified it on February 1st 2018. The Minamata Convention entered into legal force in August 2017. Addressing every major use of mercury, the Minamata Convention calls for a phase down approach to the use of mercury dental amalgam; see Annex A Part II. This is because it recognizes the fact that the road to achieving a total phase out of mercury dental amalgam begins with a progressive phase down with provisions for introduction of alternatives and monitoring of progress.
Health and Environment interaction
The WHO has reported that environmental Hazards are responsible for an estimated 25% of the total burden of disease worldwide. In Sub-Saharan Africa however, the proportion is higher (35%). This is probably due to poor development of infrastructures for monitoring and control of environmental pollution.
The 9 provisions of the Minamata convention
Minamata Convention, Annex A, Part II: The Nine measures to phase down the use of dental amalgam are:
- Setting national objectives aiming at dental caries prevention and health promotion, thereby minimizing the need for dental restoration;
- Setting national objectives aiming at minimizing its use;
- Promoting the use of cost–effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration;
- Promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restoration;
- Encouraging representative professional organizations and dental schools to educate and train dental professionals and students on the use of mercury-free dental restoration alternatives and on promoting best management practices;
- Discouraging insurance policies and programmes that favour dental amalgam use over mercury-free dental restoration;
- Encouraging insurance policies and programmes that favour the use of quality alternatives to dental amalgam for dental restoration;
- Restricting the use of dental amalgam to its encapsulated form;
- Promoting the use of best environmental practices in dental facilities to reduce releases of mercury and mercury compounds to water and land.
Note: Parties are encouraged to take measures even beyond the above nine provisions.
The 6 top priorities for Africa
- (i).Setting national objectives aiming at dental caries prevention and health promotion, thereby minimizing the need for dental restoration;
- (ii).Promoting the use of cost-effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives for dental restoration;
- (iii).Encouraging representative professional organizations and dental schools to educate and train dental professionals and students on the use of mercury-free dental restoration alternatives and on promoting best management practices;
- (iv).Promoting research and development of quality mercury-free materials for dental restorations;
- (v).Discouraging insurance policies and programs that favor dental amalgam use over mercury-free dental restoration;
- (vi) . Encouraging insurance policies and programs that favor the use of quality alternatives to dental amalgam for dental restoration.
Recommendation for African governments
1.Reduce or remove import duty and taxes on glass ionomer and bioactive bisphenol free composite restoratives.
2.Update dental schools’ curriculum and upgrade their simulation station with Professor’s station, interactive smart boards and e-learning software.
3.Update the knowledge of general dental practitioners with mercury free seminars and hands on workshop
4.Plan to set up the required infrastructure for managing wastes using www.chemi.se as a template.
Our Goal and Objectives
Goal: To motivate African Dentists to practice 21st century dentistry (minimum intervention dentistry) which is mercury free.
- To safeguard human health and the environment from mercury pollution for future generations of Africans.
- To promote mercury free dentistry (minimum intervention dentistry/21st century dentistry) in Africa through seminars, curriculum update and hands on workshops.
- To collaborate with interested governments, parties, agencies and associations/societies locally and globally in advancing our goal and objectives.
There will be 4 wings of the mercury free dentistry initiative in Nigeria / Africa:
1. The Political wing- Ministries and Parastatals (Environment, Health, Education, Women Affairs etc.) NGOs (e.g. World Alliance, SRADEV), NDA, AGDPN etc. Public relations and advocacy.
2. The Dental Education wing -Training future generations of Dentists in mercury free Dentistry.-Faculties of Dentistry/Association of Dental School Deans, Dental Education / Curriculum experts.
3. The Expert / Training Wing -Conservation and Pediatric dentistry specialists - hands on workshop/seminar resource persons/Instructors. APD, ARD etc
4. The general dental practitioners wing- reputable, experienced, general dental practitioners who are committed to mercury free Dentistry.
Faculty Board Members
Members who have participated as faculty in at least 2 workshops or seminars will be eligible for admission into this category of membership. Faculty board members will be the highest decision making organ of the committee. They will be required to chair standing committees and act as course or seminar directors/evaluators.
Faculty members will be consultants / specialists in conservative dentistry or pediatric dentistry or any other relevant dental specialty who have indicated interest in joining the Committee but who have not taken part in at least two hands on workshops or seminars. Outstanding general dental practitioners who are committed to mercury free dentistry may also be admitted as faculty members.
Associate membership shall be granted to residents in training in conservative dentistry, pediatric dentistry, community dentistry and other dental specialties. Associate membership will also be granted to general dental practitioners. It may also be granted to non-dentists who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to our goal and objectives.
Reputable general dental practitioners will be recommended by the Chairperson to the board for election as a Trustee and will be inducted formally at a meeting of the committee. The Trustees will constitute an advisory body and shall be expected to use their wide connections to support the goal and objectives of the committee. Chairpersons who have served the committee meritoriously shall on leaving office be elected by Foundation Board members as a trustee.
The committee may be dissolved by a resolution of at least 2/3rd of the members of the Board and the Trustees.
Officers of the Committee
The day to running of the committee shall be vested in the following officers:
Shall be responsible for all administrative and strategic planning of the committee’s activities. He shall be in responsible for all internal and international communications.
Shall assist and understudy the chairperson in all his responsibilities. Shall coordinate all practical hands on workshops.
Shall be responsible for all secretarial activities of the committee under the direction of the chairperson.
Shall take and keep the records of all minutes of meetings.
2 Assistant Secretaries.
Shall assist the secretary in the performance of his duties.
Shall be in charge of all financial activities of the committee including fund raising events
Shall keep the financial records and instruments of the association.
Public Relations Officer.
Shall be the public face of the committee. He shall be responsible for all press releases and shall interface with the press and other media on behalf of the committee.
- Academic Planning
This will be chaired by the chairman. The course director (s) and 3 other members of the faculty of the seminars or workshops shall be members.
This will be chaired by the Chairman. The treasurer and 3 other members of the committee shall be members
- Public relations
This will be chaired by the Public relations officer with 3 other members of the committee.
- Local Logistics
This shall consist of at least 3 members who are resident at the various workshop and seminar venues and who are qualified to be admitted as members of the committee. They shall be responsible for the direct organization and all venue arrangements.
This shall consist of at least 2 Board members and 2 other member in the universities or research institutes. It will solicit for support to mercury free dentistry researches.
- International relations committee
Shall relate with subregional committees in other countries in Africa with regards to achieving our objectives