Source: The Telegraph India, New Delhi, May 16, 2017
Toxics Link, an environmental research and advocacy organization engaged in disseminating information and helping strengthen campaigns against toxic pollution, has appealed to the government to issue a blanket ban on the use of mercury in the healthcare sector. Mercury has high toxic properties and causes contamination of soil and water, leading to human health and environmental hazards.Globally, the healthcare sector uses mercury extensively in a number of medical equipment, including thermometers, sphygmomanometers, esophageal dilators and gastrointestinal tubes. Dentistry is also one of the major users of mercury. Dental amalgam, used to fill cavity caused by tooth decay, contains about 50% of mercuryand other toxic metals such as silver, tin, copper, zinc, etc. Contact amalgam, generated during the process of amalgam restorations and residual non-contact amalgam, (the excess mix leftover) finds their way into air and water after their disposal, resulting in environmental pollution and health hazards. Children and pregnant women in particular are susceptible to mercury toxicity. It can pass through skin, blood and placental barrier and cause devastating effects on the functioning and growth of a developing fetus. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), globally, about 260 to 340 tonnes of mercury is annually released into the environment from the use of dental amalgam. Emphasizing the need to create awareness about the harmful effects of mercury on health, said, “There is an urgent need to rollout a robust public awareness campaign to educate consumers and healthcare workers, including addressing disposal of mercury waste. Toxics Link urges the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to institute a blanket ban on the use of mercury in the health sector and to facilitate the movement towards safer alternatives.” Many clinics and hospitals in Delhi practice mercury-free dentistry. However, dentists generally do not explain to their patients the impact of mercury filling on their health. This is despite the availability of safer alternatives like GIC and composites.