‘Dental amalgam harmful to pregnant women, children’
Alexander Okere, Benin
They made the call at a press briefing on phasing down the use of dental amalgam, a tooth filling material for cavities, in Benin, Edo State.
The stakeholders drawn from the Nigeria Dental Association, state ministries of health, environment and sustainability and non-governmental organisations, said that the material contained about 50 per cent of mercury, a neurotoxin and pollutant harmful to humans and the environment.
They, however, added that proactive government policies at the federal and state levels would help to reduce the spread of the substance and its adverse affects in the society.
Speaking on the theme, “Towards Mercury-free Dentistry in Edo State,” the Executive Director of the Sustainable Environment Development Initiative, Dr. Tom Aneni, noted that women were exposed to the alloy through the environment.
Aneni stated such an exposure could be transferred during foetal development, through the placenta, and to the nursing infant during breast feeding.
He, therefore called for urgent steps to end the use of the material in children under the age of 16, pregnant and breastfeeding women by July 1, 2018, in order to move Nigeria to a sustainable path “and ultimately ensure an amalgam-free Africa.”
According to him, “Health impacts linked to childhood exposure to mercury often do not manifest for years and could include cancer, development disorders and learning disabilities.
“Amalgam exposures in the womb or in early childhood may cause lifelong harm. Exposures during foetal development increase the risk of such harmful effects as preterm births, birth defects, childhood and adult diseases.”
The President of the World Alliance for Mercury-free Dentistry, Mr. Charlie Brown, noted that the call to phase-out amalgam use was an opportunity to move the campaign from civil society groups to the governments.
Brown also said that limiting the use of the dental material in hospitals would gradually end the current opposition to the advocacy for a total ban.
In their remarks, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. David Osifo, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, Omuoa Oni-Okpaku, stressed the need to replace the alloy with a dependable and affordable alternative.
Osifo, who was represented by official in the ministry, Mrs. Alex Enunwaoyi, also said that the state government would support a complete phase out of the product.
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