Dental Tribune America

International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology launches mercury-free campaign in Brazil

By Anita Vazquez Tibau, international advocate against the use of mercury in dentistry
April 05, 2015

The International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) launched the national campaign for mercury-free dentistry in Brazil in late fall 2014. During the sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the IAOMT developed what would become the Technical Assistance Programme (TAP). The TAP educates dental professionals, doctors, governments, environmentalists and civil society on the safe removal of mercury in dental practices and the protection of dentists, dental staff and patients, and how to handle mercury waste in a conscientious manner.

A number of initiatives to implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury are already underway in Brazil. The country has ratified many environmental treaties, including the Stockholm Convention, the Basel Convention and the Rotterdam Convention.

Since the TAP's launch in Brazil, a public hearing on mercury was held by Dr. Aspásia Camargo from Rio de Janeiro. She also introduced the first proposed mercury law, which was followed by another proposed mercury law, introduced by Brazilian politician Anthony Garotinho, also from Rio de Janeiro. Vitória, the capital of the state of Espírito Santo, and São Gonçalo, a city in Rio de Janeiro with a population of more than 1.2 million, have banned the use of mercury in the dental industry. The first amalgam separators were installed in a public university in Rio de Janeiro.

Existing laws on health and the environment are being re-examined in order to assist Brazil in its commitment to the request by the UNEP Secretariat for aggressive action for early implementation of the Minamata Convention.

An official research group has been established by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz), a scientific institution for research and development in biomedical sciences located in Rio de Janeiro. The foundation is considered a major public health research institution globally. The research group will be publishing a paper on the most recent research on dental amalgam fillings.

In October 2014, the IAOMT held its first pilot project TAP workshop in collaboration with the Associação Brasileira de Odontologia, the Brazilian dental association. It was so well received that the cities of Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo requested that the IAOMT return to Brazil to repeat the two-day course.

During the TAP in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Eliana Napoleão said: "FIOCRUZ has embraced this cause; it is a question without return. The banning of mercury is not a fashion statement. The banning is inevitable because Brazil has ratified many environmental treaties and we are being pressured to fulfill our obligations. We have created an official group to produce a scientific paper to strengthen the foundation of the current laws dealing with mercury."

Dr. Olympio Faissol Pinto told the participants at the workshop: "You are witnessing a historical moment where dentistry in Brazil has climbed steps and will be more respected. I thank IAOMT, a group of amazing scientists and dental professionals who came to us not only for free, but voluntarily to teach us how to deal with the problem of mercury in dentistry from now on. Dealing with degenerative disease is much harder, painful, and more difficult than preventing disease in the first place. Ending the use of mercury in dentistry will eliminate exposure to this toxic material and have a positive impact on the health of everyone."

The president of the Brazilian dental association, Dr. Paulo Murilo, who hosted the TAP, ended the workshop in Rio de Janeiro by bringing a 25-year-old mercury triturator on to the stage and asking the TAP team, along with participants, to gather around the table to smash this toxic machine in a symbolic gesture of the end of mercury in dentistry.

The implications of Brazil's transformation to mercury-free dentistry will not only have an immediate positive impact in Brazil, but also prove to the world that any country can eliminate the use of mercury.

Spearheading this national campaign is IAOMT Brazilian Chapter President Dr. Martha Faissol, a third-generation mercury-free dentist and the daughter of the forefather of the mercury-free dentistry movement, Dr. Olympio Faissol Pinto, along with Anita Vazquez Tibau, international advocate against the use of mercury in dentistry and IAOMT's international TAP coordinator. Presenting the TAP workshops in these cities for the second time was Dr. Blanche Grube, from the U.S., who was mentored by Dr. Hal Huggins and has been a mercury-free dentist for over two decades, along with Dr. David Warwick from Canada, who has been performing dental treatment without mercury for more than 20 years.

The IAOMT is an accredited UNEP nongovernmental organization. It developed the TAP based on the guidelines of the Minamata Convention, helping Brazil remove mercury, a pervasive poison, from dentistry. By promoting this initiative, dentistry will become safer for the environment, for the dental workers and for the dental patients.

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