New rules on amalgam agreed at EU level

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a gradual phase down in dental amalgam. The move has ended months of speculation over whether the dental filling material faced an outright ban by 2022 – an outcome the BDA has lobbied against vigorously.

Worldwide environmental concerns over mercury pollution had led the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to draw up The Minamata Convention, agreed in 2012. The treaty recommends a phase-down of amalgam alongside a number of other measures to be pursued in tandem including prevention of dental disease and research into new materials.

The vote in the European Parliament and the expected ratification by the European Council will formalise the EU’s own approach to these recommendations, including an assessment of the feasibility of phasing out amalgam entirely in the future, preferably by 2030.

Dental amalgam makes a small contribution to environmental mercury pollution but has been used as a durable, stable and cost effective restorative dental material for more than 150 years.

The vote means that dentists will continue to have the full range of filling materials at their disposal to enable them to address the individual needs of each patient. In some patient groups the use of amalgam is considered to be less frequently necessary, in accordance with the general principle of minimising intervention.

For ten years the BDA has worked closely with international partners to move the debate from an unworkable blanket ban towards a gradual reduction in the use of dental amalgam. UK dentists have been at the forefront of meeting EU standards on use of pre-capsulated amalgam and amalgam separators.