European Commission plans ban on dental amalgam from 2025

CC – 08/2023

The European Union (EU) should become mercury-free. In the past, the Mercury Regulation of 2017 banned the highly toxic mercury in numerous applications, for example in gold mining, batteries, fluorescent tubes, thermometers and barometers. One of the last remaining forms of mercury in the EU is dental amalgam - a mercury alloy filling material used for dental treatments. This is soon to change. If the European Commission has its way.

Complete ban from 2025

With the proposed regulation to revise the EU Mercury Regulation, the European Commission plans to ban dental amalgam. It presented a corresponding proposal for a regulation on 14 July. In it, the European Commission seeks a complete ban on use, production and export from 1 January 2025. The aim is to protect EU citizens and the environment from the toxic chemical mercury. The European Commission's initiative is in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, the 2020 EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the 2021 EU Zero Pollutant Action Plan.

Role of the crematoria

Despite precautions such as mandatory amalgam separators and pre-dosed and encapsulated use in dental practices, mercury can enter the environment. The focus here is on the crematoria. Under current conditions, mercury emissions in crematoria have been increasing for years. They could be avoided through the use of exhaust gas reduction technologies. However, there is no EU-wide regulation on this, which leads to Member States applying very different levels of strictness.

Health and environmental protection

Any mercury released into the environment can re-enter the food chain. Residues are often found in fish and seafood and in soils. Deposited mercury has a long life, especially when it is converted into methyl mercury. This is harmful to health because high mercury exposure can damage the brain, lungs, kidneys and the human immune system.

Strict regulations and phase-out plans

In Germany, around 47 million dental fillings were billed to the statutory health insurance funds in 2021. Of these, 1.4 million were amalgam fillings - a share of about 3.2 per cent. The consumption of dental amalgam is strongly declining throughout the EU, as well as in Germany. This is mainly due to the implementation of an international treaty - the Minamata Convention. The Minamata Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017 and has so far been ratified by the EU and 143 countries, including all EU Member States. It has been adopted by the Mercury Regulation (EU) 2017/852 since 1 January 2018. Since then, dental amalgam has been banned in the EU for deciduous teeth, children under 15 years of age and pregnant and breastfeeding patients.

The German Social Insurance (DSV) last took a position on an impact assessment by the European Commission on the revision of the EU Mercury Regulation in 2021. From the DSV's point of view, it did not seem necessary to completely ban dental amalgam due to the strict regulations in Germany. The complete ban proposed by the European Commission now requires a fundamental health policy discussion on co-payment-free fillers in healthcare.