On October 25th, 2016, representatives from All-China Environment Federation(ACEF), World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry(WAMFD), Asian Center on Environmental Health(ASEH), United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Foreign Economic Cooperation Office(FECO,MEP), Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Center of Ministry of Environmental Protection, Peking University School of Stomatology, Jiacui Environmental Promotive Center as well as dental specialists from local hospitals and district-level clinics gathered at Beijing for “Multi-Stakeholder Workshop on Phasing Down Dental Amalgam in China” .The Workshop was jointly hosted by ACEF, WAMFD and ASEH. Ms. Xie Yuhong, Deputy Secretary General of ACEF, Dr. Charlie Brown, President of WAMFD gave opening remarks for the Workshop.China has taken significant steps towards phasing down mercury use domestically. In October 2013, the Chinese government signed with the Minamata Convention as an official member. After two years of relentless negotiations, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress ratified the convention domestically in April 2016, and submitted the signed convention documents to the United Nations in August 2016 as the 30th Official Member of the Convention.
Officials from the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection outlined the major steps China as a nation has taken towards following through with the Minamata Convention: 1) Began the construction of Environmental Protection Mercury Pollution Control Technology Engineering Center, in order to build a platform for the integration of government research and industry in terms of technical reserves; 2) Developing industry research for mercury-related pollutions, in order to have data insights to support argument against mercury utilization and for mercury pollution management; 3) Amended multiple relevant documents of policies and regulations related to mercury utilization and management. Dr. Hossain Shahriar, Vice President of WAMFD and Secretary General of ASEH, shared with all the participants about the efforts and achievements already made and on-going actions being taken in Asian countries to phase down dental amalgam. He also analyzed that dental amalgam is actual very costly though with lower market price if we taking its negative effects on environment and health,e.g. once the water and soil are polluted due to improper disposal of dental amalgam, the price we will pay for our environment and health in the future will be extremely high. Dr. Zheng Shuguo from Peking University School of Stomatology who attended the May 2016 Bangkok Conference on “Asian Workshop on Successful Strategies to Phase Down Dental Amalgam”, briefed the audience on the medical and professional side of dental amalgam use in Chinese patients. While dental amalgam has been used for over 150 years, is malleable and stable and reasonably low-priced, the total market share of amalgam in the dental fillings in China has been estimated at a mere 30%. Patients of marginal territories in Western China and economically under-developed zones are more likely to choose mercury amalgam than more expensive alternatives. Dr. Zheng stated that amalgam has damaging effects on both the patient and the implementing health specialist in question: due to the content of mercury present in the amalgam, the chemical has been proven to have negative impacts on the patient’s digestive system, central nervous system, endocrine system, and skin tissue. If health workers on the frontline do not protect themselves adequately, prolonged exposure to amalgam may cause chronic mercury poisoning. After a round of speeches, there was a panel discussion on the status quo of amalgam use in dentistry in China, as well as the possible dangers of this practice towards patients. Doctors and academics from Peking University School of Stomatology, community dental specialists from local clinics, and representatives from Ministry of Environmental Protection and NGOs engaged in lively discussion over the advantages and disadvantages of usage of dental amalgam and the future of the market for the substance.
In future terms, stakeholders involved on multiple facets of government and society wish to proceed with following through with Minamata Convention’s details. All-China Environment Federation proposes to plan for community public awareness-raising activities on the negative effects on both health and environment and the positive effects of dental filling alternatives in partnership with World Alliance on Mercury Free Dentistry, and intends to fully support the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s ongoing projects in limiting use of mercury and data research on mercury-related pollution management.