Mercury is a highly toxic chemical that threatens the health of humans and the environment. When it is released into the environment, it enters the food chain where it accumulates, particularly in fish. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys and the immune system. For these reasons, dental amalgam fillings which contain mercury have long been criticized. This is particularly true in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) where, as discussed repeatedly, amalgam has long been a subject of both concern and misinformation, e.g.:
- Is removal of dental amalgam a good idea?
- Dental Amalgam
- Three Trends In “Alternative Dentistry” Part 3: Amalgam Removal and Avoidance
- Three Trends In “Alternative Dentistry” Part 1: The Concept of Projections—Of Meridians and Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD)
- Holistic dentistry?
In the EU, dental amalgam might soon be merely of historical interest.
It has been announced that the EU Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the Commission’s proposal to address the remaining uses of mercury in products in the EU in line with commitments set out in the EU’s Zero Pollution Ambition.
In spite of viable mercury-free alternatives, around 40 tonnes of mercury are still used in the EU annually for dental amalgam as current rules only forbid the use of dental amalgam for treating teeth in children under 15 years old as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Negotiators agreed to phase out the use of dental amalgam in the EU by 1 January 2025 except if deemed strictly necessary by the dental practitioner based on the duly justified specific medical needs of the patient.
EU countries that have not yet adjusted their reimbursement system to cover alternatives, may postpone the phase-out up until 30 June 2026, to avoid negative repercussions for low-income individuals that would otherwise be socio-economically disproportionally affected by the phase-out.
The export of dental amalgam will also be prohibited from 1 January 2025, whereas the manufacturing and import into the EU will be banned from 1 July 2026.
After the agreement, rapporteur Marlene Mortler (EPP, Germany) said: “After an intensive week of negotiations, we were able to reach an agreement today to ban dental amalgam containing mercury. This is an important step towards a mercury-free future. I am very pleased with the result – because we have ensured that such dental amalgam may only be used in medically necessary cases. Some Member States have been granted an exemption in order to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the amalgam phase-out. After all, the ban on dental amalgam must not mean that low-income EU citizens can no longer afford adequate dental treatment in these countries. Another key point of this agreement is the decision that lamps containing mercury may only be exported to countries outside the EU until 30 June 2026. This will ensure that products that are already banned in the EU are not sold to third countries and have environmentally harmful consequences there.”
The deal still has to be adopted by the EU Parliament and Council, after which the new law will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.