Minamata Convention: Zambia, others move to phase out dental amalgam in dentistry
Apparently enthused by the success it has achieved in eliminating dental amalgam in all health facilities both in government and private hospitals, the government of Zambia has begun moves to completely phase out use of dental amalgam in dentistry across the country.
Essentially, the government is set to put up legislation to prohibit the importation and use of dental amalgam; promote research in mercury-free dentistry and collaborate with other line ministries to eradicate the usage of the harmful substance.
In a resolution at the end of two-day regional workshop that brought environmental and consumer non-governmental organizations members from seven Southern and East African countries together in Luzaka on 28 and 29 April 2023 to develop a powerful plan to enforce the Children’s Amendment to the Minamata Convention, participants also called for unity among African countries to ban the use of dental amalgam in dentistry.
Besides, they called for use of multilevel approach to ensure activities are taking place in good number of African countries starting at community level; enhance engagement of care givers in programmes that focus on promoting mercury-free dentistry; continuous awareness raising to consumers and other stakeholders such as media in all the participating countries; called for strategic advocacy communication and social mobilization as well as need to involve the policy makers including the rural leadership.
Prior to the Luzaka workshop, similar meetings for West African and Central African nations were held in Lomé on 25 and 26 April and North Africa and Southwest Asia from 1st to 2nd of May. Momentum gathered for this continental initiative to stop all placement of mercury dental fillings in African children and African pregnant and breastfeeding women by the legal deadline in the treaty of 28 September 2023.
Michael Musenga, host of Luzaka workshop, commended the efforts of the government of Zambia and that of Dr. Christopher Kapeshi, who has been very instrumental in ensuring that dental amalgam is phased out in Zambia. He explained that Dr Kapeshi, now the National Oral Health Coordinator for the country and as the President of Zambia Dental Association (ZDA) spear headed the process of eliminating dental amalgam in all health facilities both government and private.
The efforts, he said, led the Ministry of Health to stop the use of dental amalgam in all government hospitals in 10 Provinces of the country. In addition, he said the government also changed the syllabus in dental training schools and university teaching hospital.
Musenga disclosed that dental amalgam is no longer in use in Zambia for the past 22 years now. “Because of this gallant Doctors who have worked tirelessly, we are now going into the transition to completely phase out dental amalgam in Zambia and make a BIG HISTORY OF to forget about AMALGAM IN ZAMBIA.
“We are happy with the Government because the Minister has confirmed that his Ministry which has a responsibility of managing the environment will collaborate with the line ministries such as Health to eradicate the usage of harmful substances that can affect human health and the environment.
“And therefore the Government will now put up the legislation to prohibit the imputation and use of amalgam in Zambia. Children’s Environmental Health Foundation will now conduct an awareness raising to communities and boarder areas as well as schools, he said.
Charlie Brown, president, World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, who attended the three regional workshops in person said: “The Children’s Amendment to the Minamata Convention calls for the end of amalgam use for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. All Parties must either ban amalgam or recommend the end of amalgam for these vulnerable populations. The Children’s Amendment enters into legal force in just four months—on 28 September 2023.
“Our NGO team across Africa assembled in three regional workshops to create the strategy for victory: the end of amalgam use in African children and in African pregnant and breastfeeding women.”
The three workshops hosted by les Amis de la Terre in Lomé, Children’s Environmental Health Foundation in Luzaka and Arab Network for Environmental and Development were financed by benefactor Dr. Myron Wentz, who for seven years had fully funded the Africa campaign for mercury-free dentistry administered by the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry’s secretariat in Washington.
The Africa region spearheaded the landmark Children’s Amendment achieved in 2022 at the fourth Conference of the Parties (COP4) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Children’s Amendment enters into legal force on 28 September 2023.