The European Parliament and Council have passed a new Regulation on handling mercury (see also article from Dec 2016). Under the new Regulation, the use of dental amalgam for dental treatment is to be completely phased out by 2030. In addition, its use should be restricted in the transitional period. Thus, the Council of the European Union has prevailed over the demands of MEPs who had called for an immediate ban.
Protecting the environment and patients
The background for adopting the Regulation is the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury which contains international provisions for the use of mercury. The aim of the Convention is to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury and mercury compounds. The EU and the Member States signed the Convention in 2013, pledging to ratify and implement it across the entire European Union. The new Regulation means that all necessary legislative steps have been taken to ratify the Convention.
Under the new Regulation, it will be forbidden to use amalgam for the dental treatment of pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under the age of 15. It will also only be used in encapsulated form throughout the EU. This is already commonly the case in Germany. The use of dental amalgam is to be reduced by improvements in preventing dental caries. In order to achieve the goal of mercury-free dental care by 2030, the Commission will explore options regarding mercury-free alternatives to dental amalgam by 2020.
Searching for alternatives
There are few studies on alternative substances, such as composite fillings, and even these studies report intolerances or toxic risks. Since dental amalgam has proved to be a filling material with positive properties, the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV Spitzenverband) advocates the use of this substance until a reliable substitute has been thoroughly researched. This will ensure that dental treatment with filling material can continue.
The new Regulation will apply to the Member States from 1 January 2018 and can be read online here.