York, Pennsylvania — At the headquarters city for the #2 U.S. amalgam manufacturer, a broad-based coalition of community, faith-based, and environmental groups call on Dentsply International to cease making amalgam. Deceptively marketed as “silver fillings,” amalgam is composed 50% of mercury.
At a news conference at the Yorktowne Hotel on 21 May 2013, at 1:00 pm, the speakers unveil a letter from 23 organizations from Pennsylvania, around the nation, and from six continents — including several religious orders — calling for Dentsply to set a timetable to phase-out mercury amalgam. Signers range from South Central Pennsylvanians for a Mercury-Free Environment to Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk to Consumers for Dental Choice — plus environmental groups from Australia, Bangladesh, France, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Mauritius, Philippines, Poland, and Uruguay. The letter expresses concern that Dentsply may dump the product abroad as American consumers increasingly reject amalgam.
At the news conference at the Yorktowne Hotel on 21 May 2013 at 1:00 p.m., the speakers unveil a letter from 23 organizations from Pennsylvania, around the nation, and around the world — including several religious orders — calling for Dentsply to set a timetable to phase-out mercury amalgam manufacturing. The signers range from South Central Pennsylvanians for a Mercury-Free Environment to the Ursuline Sister of Tildonk to the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry — plus environmental groups from Australia, Bangladesh, France, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Mauritius, Philippines, Poland, and Uruguay. The latter are concerned that Dentsply may dump the product in developing nations if consumers continue to reject its use in the U.S. and Europe.
Between 313 and 411 tons of mercury is consumed each year for use in amalgam, accounting for 10% of global mercury consumption. Much of this mercury eventually ends up in the environment via numerous unsound pathways including cremation of bodies with amalgam, air emissions from dental offices, and human waste. Once released into the environment, dental mercury can convert into a much more toxic form, methylmercury, which is taken up by fish, and enters the food chain. Exposure to methylmercury is particularly dangerous for the developing brains of the unborn, infants and young children.
“This is a wake-up call for Dentsply,” said Mary Lu Hale, a nutritionist from York and chair of South Central Pennsylvanians for a Mercury-Free Environment. “The people of York like Dentsply, and want it to make profits from its hundreds of quality dental products. But for the good of its reputation and that of this community, it should phase out making amalgam.”
“The faith-based community believes that mercury use in all products must end,” said Sister Valerie Heinonen of the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk. “The place to start is to stop placing a mercury product in children’s mouths.”
“The world comes to York to ask Dentsply to stop making amalgam,” said Charlie Brown, president of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry “The mercury treaty changes the ball game for amalgam; we ask Dentsply not to be a hold-out keeping amalgam alive.”
“I never use amalgam and never need to,” said Dr. Carol Layton, a dentist from nearby Hershey, PA. “Amalgam is a primitive, polluting, pre-Civil War product which cracks teeth.”
“Amalgam is a major source of mercury pollution in the U.S. and around the world,” said Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project. “The US government stated position in the negotiations was support for a phase down leading to an eventual amalgam phase out. Dentsply should adhere to that approach.”
In January, 2013, at the fifth and final Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee in Geneva, the United States and 139 other countries agreed on the text for the Minamata Convention on Mercury to gradually reduce mercury use worldwide. The treaty calls for a “phase down” in dental amalgam use, including:
· Setting national objectives aimed at minimizing dental amalgam use;
· Promoting the use of cost-effective and clinically effective mercury-free alternatives;
· 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; and
· Discouraging insurance policies and programs that favor dental amalgam use over mercury-free restoration.
Ms. Hale, Sister Valerie, Dr. Layton, and Mr. Brown will attend and speak at this news conference.