Our teeth can become ticking time bombs

Our teeth can become ticking time bombs
IndyACT sheds the light on mercury contamination
Beirut, on 29 March 2012 – During a half day conference, the global 
organization, IndyACT, revealed the results of the first-of-its-kind 
mercury sampling operation in Lebanon and Morocco that was 
conducted during 2011. The samples show that the highest
levels of mercury contamination in the air of Lebanon exist in
the health sector, especially dental clinics, making the
institutions that should protect public health a source of threat to it. 
The conference also included speeches from the Ministry of Environment and the syndicate of hospitals, in addition to a statement from a dental health expert. The speakers clarified the reasons why the health sector suffers from mercury contamination, and the efforts being conducted to eliminate the use of mercury in healthcare institutions. 
Mercury is highly toxic and may be fatal if inhaled. It causes damage to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, and immune systems, as well as kidneys. Currently mercury is still being used in tools and processes of the health sector that could be easily substituted for safer alternatives. Such tools and processes include thermometers and teeth fillings. Dentists in Lebanon have used and many still use mercury containing amalgam as tooth fillings, which can result in a slow release of mercury from the mouth and into the body over time.
“Our teeth have turned into a toxic time bomb”, said Michelle Matta, a toxics campaigner from IndyACT. “People have the choice not to have this nasty chemical in their teeth, and they should know about it”.
Mercury has become an increasingly popular chemical of concern over the last several years, which prompted the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to initiate a historic new process of governmental negotiations for the development of a comprehensive global treaty on the reduction of mercury contamination. Lebanon still lacks sufficient information on the level of mercury risk in the country, and currently there is no legislation that controls the use of this dangerous heavy metal. “The Ministry of Environment should rapidly phase out the use of mercury and adopt safer mercury-free alternatives, similar to what most developed countries are doing”, said Dr Naji Kodeih, IndyACT’s toxics policy expert. 
IndyACT also calls on Arab governments to strongly engage in the current intergovernmental negotiations for the elaboration of a new international legal instrument on mercury.

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