The World Health Organization today released its long-awaited 2009 meeting report on the “Future Use of Materials for Dental Restorations” in preparation for the third of five Intergovernmental Committee deliberations that are expected to lead to the adoption of a legally binding treaty on mercury by 2013. Hailed by consumer groups as a “breakthrough,” the WHO report suggests, over time, the global “phase down” of amalgam. “When an amalgam “phase down” was proposed during the meeting, there was much support,” said MPP director Bender in a statement. “This report reflects this and represents the first step towards phasing out amalgam globally.”
The findings of a new WHO/FAO Report on Benefits and Risks of Seafood Consumption were challenged today by MPP as missing a key opportunity to advise governments about mercury risk from fish consumption. “Surprisingly, this expert group failed to address exposure concerns about fish with higher mercury levels, which have led to consumption advisories in the U.S. and around the world,” said MPP director Bender, in a statement. “The concept of ‘net benefits’ is severely flawed, because benefits accrue to everyone who eats seafood, but risks are concentrated in the small fraction of the population who regularly choose high-mercury fish,” said Dr. Ned Groth, an MPP science consultant. “It is not acceptable to tolerate significant harm to a minority just because the large majority are better off.”
12 scientists recently wrote FDA and the Ag Dept. requesting that misleading or erroneos information on mercury exposure risks from fish be corrected and update in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Unfortunately, the advice in the 2010 Guidelines includes the suggestion (on page 39 ) that pregnant women “can eat all types of tuna,” despite the fact that tuna accounts for the largest share of methylmercury in the American diet, contributing 37 percent of the total. They point out that the Guidelines contain serious scientific deficiencies and that any risk-communication errors could affect consumer perceptions of the risks associated with fish consumption and potentially result in significant harm to public health, particulary in pregnant women.
On Thursday, the Vermont legislature passed a bill creating an extended producer responsibility recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbs and setting mercury content standards, modeled after the EU. Pending the Governor’s approval, Vermont will become the third state to establish such a program, following a law first passed in Maine (supported by a report– also see fact sheet) and then a second in Washington, where a weblink explains it. “This law will help continue an important lamp recycling program.” said Senator Virginai Lyons (D-Chittenden), lead sponsor of the legislation. “Protecting our waterways and other natural resources from mercury exposure is vitally important,” said Representative David Deen (D-Windham-5). More information on the retail lamp collection program is available here.
MPP recent wrote a letter supporting U.S. Government (USG) leadership calling for mercury amalgam “…phase down, with the goal of eventual phase out” in its most submission to the UN Mercury International Negotiating Committee (INC). The USG position is consistent with WHO’s perspective as reflected in a presentation to INC1 and is also reflective of countries in the Nordic and elsewhere that have already phased down amalgam. In addition, the letter urges the USG to not succumb to ADA’s recommendations to have FDA assume a leading role in the INC process, given that EPA, and not FDA has the expertise to address the global threat of mercury amalgam releases.
MPP recently provided testimony to an FDA panel charged with re-examining dental amalgam. We pointed out that while FDA panel re-evalutates, the World Health Organization is expected to recommend that amalgam use be “phased down.” “We welcome WHO’s support for “phase down” , and urge FDA to do the same,” said MPP’s director. The WHO is expected to soon final its meeting report in preparation for the upcoming International Negotiations Committee deliberations in Chiba, Japan, 24-28 January, 2011, that will ultimately lead to the adoption of a legally binding instrument on mercury by 2013.
The European Environmental Bureau and MPP recently wrote a letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to correct inaccuracies, misleading and incorrect statements before finalizing its meeting report. Unfortunately, the draft report’s bias is already being diffused on various pro-amalgam websites, including one from Australia and the other from the USA. Among other things, the letter encourages WHO to correct for the record that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss alternatives to amalgam, and not debate or assert the safety of amalgam, — and instead to highlight opportunities for “phasing down” the amalgam use, as WHO discussed in Stockholm in June.
NGOs from around the world, including ZMWG, International Pops Elimination Network and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives , sent a letter UNEP demontrating our solidarity in strong opposition to policies promoting incineration of mercury. The letter, spearheaded by MPP, raises several concerns related to the direction the UNEP global mercury waste partnership is going, appearing to promote waste combustion as a viable end-of-life strategy for mercury and also preempt future decisions of the Interngovernmental Negotiation Committee deliberations leading to the development of a global treaty on mercury.
MPP has learned from state officials that an EPA decision to establish effluent guidelines for dental discharges of mercury will occur soon. In a sign on letter from several groups, we strongly urge EPA to terminate the EPA’s 2008 MOU with the ADA and establish effluent guidelines for dental mercury discharges.
On behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group, MPP’s director was selected today to become an expert member of UNEP’s Consumer, Environmental Protection and Recycling Task Force of its Efficient Lighting for Developing and Emerging Countries initiative, or “en.lighten,” helping to shape the first global strategy to achieve market transformation towards efficient lighting worldwide, with specific consideration for environmentally sound approaches to deal with mercury. When completed in mid-2011, the Task Force recommendations will be featured in a Global Road Map on Energy Efficient Lighting with the aim of obtaining its endorsement among governments worldwide.