Update from The International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP)


The International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant (ICMGP) was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 24-29, 2011. Amanda Just, Freya Koss, and Anita Tibau attended as affiliates of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and recorded some notable information about the mercury used in dentistry as related to the conference:

Overall, the conference showcased the scientific research at the core of the global mercury issue. The bulk of the science presented explored the hazardous effects of mercury in the water supply, fish, gold mining, and the environment at large.

Health effects related to fish consumption were a hot topic, and the opening speaker, Richard Gelfond, president of IMAX, spoke of his mercury poisoning due to eating fish. This was significant because the problem of human poisoning from mercury was recognized at a conference designed to explore environmental aspects of mercury pollution.

Although dental amalgam was only mentioned in a few sessions, various factors made it apparent that the issue of mercury in dentistry merits international attention and future action during the United Nations Environmental Programme’s upcoming treaty negotiations.

The highlight of the conference (from the perspective of the mercury used in dental amalgam) was Dr. G. Mark Richardson’s presentation entitled “Mercury Exposure and Risks from Dental Amalgam in the U.S. Population Post-2000.”

Dr. Anne Summers and Dr. Chris Shade also presented their research during the main sessions, and their scientific work includes references to the mercury in dental amalgam.

Notably, Janet Gaskin, D. Coyle, and C. Rennie’s presentation entitled “A Framework to Reduce Mental Retardation in Children Exposed to In-Utero Mercury” also contained information about the mercury in dental amalgam and even included the cost of mercury-free fillings.

In general, the gap between the science of human health and the science of the environment is shrinking. Although some researchers kept the two issues completely separate, sessions at the conference bridged these two areas, and because dental amalgam was mentioned in several presentations, it appears that the issue of dental amalgam is in a position to help lessen this division even more. Thus, human health issues are on the radar of the environmental groups, and dental amalgam has the potential to be brought into the scope of global mercury pollution.

A number of conference attendees noted a disconnect between mercury science and the medical community, as exhibited by doctors’ failure to consider mercury poisoning as a disease/illness.

The fact that human health issues were such an essential part of the conference is a major step forward in raising public awareness about the dental amalgam issue.

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