A joint research project from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Golansk University of Technology, and Swedish Environmental Research Institute have quantified the cost of mercury emissions in their report, Economic Benefits from Decreased Mercury Emissions: Projections for 2020. If current trends of mercury emissions continue, they estimate the worldwide societal damages will be $6.6 billion. On the other hand, if extended emission control and maximum feasible technological reduction are put in place, emissions could drop as much as 60% and save $2.2 billion.
Chairman of the Congressional Domestic Policy Subcommittee, Dennis Kucinich, and Congresswoman Diane Watson sent a written request to EPA to reduce mercury pollution by tightening dental mercury regulations with Best Management Practices and amalgam separators. They point out that dental mercury is a serious source of mercury pollution and comprises over half of all mercury in use today, amounting to over 1000 tons. They call upon the EPA to reevaluate and update its mercury emission factors based upon more complete data and provide a plan to Congress by February 16th.
As a result of its findings from a November 14, 2007 hearing at which MPP Director Bender testified, the US House Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is conducting an investigation into the work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine if EPA has underestimated mercury emissions related to dental use of mercury. The Subcommittee’s hearing revealed significant disparities between the agency’s data for mercury emissions related to dental use of mercury and other estimates. EPA has even expressed a lack of confidence in some of its estimates. Furthermore, there are a number of other emissions pathways for which EPA has failed to develop any estimates, as the attached letter from the Subcommittee to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson outlines. It its letter, Chairman Dennis Kucinich requests that EPA provide specific information to the Committee no later than Feb.29, 2008.
The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 14, to discuss FDA’s responsibility to evaluate the harmful environmental impacts of mercury dental fillings and to question why FDA has not finalized a rule proposed in 2002 to classify mercury tooth fillings under the Medical Device regulations. “The Hearing will show that dental uses contribute to high mercury levels in fish Americans consume,” said MPP Director Michael Bender. “Testimony will also show, for the first time, that dental mercury air emissions may be more than five times higher than recent EPA estimates.” Bender’s testimony comprehensively lays out the extent of the problem, and the need to reduce this pollution source.
Advocates released a report supporting recommendations by the Vermont Air Pollution Control Division and the Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution to phase out the use of mercury dental amalgam. The report outlines the many reasons to phase out mercury in dentistry–ranging from indirect toxic releases into wastewater, landfills and farmers’ fields to more direct releases from dental clinics, human wastes and cremation.
Two years ago, the Vermont Legislature mandated requirements for dental clinics to install pollution control equipment. But advocates maintain that the legislature has not gone far enough, and a growing number of Vermont agencies, officials and committees.
In its “2007 Annual Report to the Governor, General Assembly and Citizens of the State of Vermont,” the Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution stated its support for “an eventual phase-out of mercury-containing dental amalgam…and recommends that the Legislature consider this [in order] to virtually eliminate the release of anthropogenic mercury in Vermont.” In addition, the Committee recommends that the Legislature consider legislation to ban the use of dental amalgams in the two highest risk populations, pregnant women and children under 18. “Mercury tooth fillings are one of the largest pollution sources in Vermont today,” said Michael Bender, Director of Mercury Policy Project in a statement. “While mercury releases from human wastes and cremation may be an uncomfortable topic, most people understand that if they have mercury in their teeth, it will eventually be released into the environment.” Legislation is currently being considered in VT to phase out dental mercury use.