Agent-Centered Deontology: The Minamata Convention on Mercury and Dentistry’s Role

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global, legally binding treaty which opened for signature on October 10, 2013 in Japan. To address the global oral health and environmental impact of mercury dental amalgam fillings, first author Tim K. Mackey and co-authors John T. Contreras and Bryan A. Liang collaborated on a peer-reviewed scientific journal article entitled The Minamata Convention on Mercury: Attempting to address the global controversy of dental amalgam use and mercury waste disposal published by Elsevier in Science of the Total Environment (1). The article gives an introduction to the international debate regarding mercury use in dental amalgam, examines the unresolved global dental amalgam controversy from an environmental and dental professional society perspective, describes the Convention’s provisions to phase-down the use of dental amalgam, and proposes a tiered programmatic policy approach to strengthen the implementation phase of the Convention.

On behalf of the United States of America, the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs simultaneously signed and ratified the Convention on November 6, 2013. The nation’s quick ratification of the treaty reflects the belief that the country can implement treaty-bound obligations under existing legislative and regulatory authority. To offer their opinion on the clinical dentist’s amalgam governance leadership role in America, first author John T. Contreras and co-authors Tim K. Mackey and Bryan A. Liang collaborated on a viewpoint article entitled Global Amalgam Governance: The Need for Clinician Leadership – Grassroots education and action from dentists are needed next steps, published by AEGIS Communications in Inside Dentistry (2). The article addresses the following matters of concern: the treaty’s permissive language regarding mercury amalgam use and disposal; mercury vapor exposure to patients and dental workers; mercury amalgam waste contamination of the environment; the dental clinician’s role as a leading stakeholder in choosing to continue, phasedown, or phaseout use of amalgam; and the dental professional’s ethical and legal duties to society. According to the authors, the future of global oral health and protection of the environment likely depends on clinical dentists’ leadership. John T. Contreras, D.D.S. is a CONEM member.

 

References

1. Mackey TK, Contreras JT, Liang BA. The Minamata Convention on Mercury: Attempting to address the global controversy of dental amalgam use and mercury waste disposal. Sci Total Environ 2013; 472C: 125-129. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.10.115.

2. Contreras JT, Mackey TK, Liang BA. Global amalgam governance: The need for clinician leadership. Grassroots education and action from dentists are needed next steps. Inside Dentistry 2014; 10 (1): 30-32. http://www.dentalaegis.com/id/2014/01 (13.1. 2014).

 

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