WHO Wants Measuring Devices to Be Mercury-Free By 2020

The initiative — Mercury-Free Healthcare by 2020 — was launched Oct. 1 at the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It aims to end all manufacture, import and export of mercury-containing measuring devices and to replace them with accurate, affordable and safer nonmercury alternatives.  The campaign also seeks to end the use of mercury in dental amalgams, topical anesthetics and skin-lightening cosmetics.

WHO considers mercury one of the top 10 chemicals of major health concern.  Even very low levels of exposure can cause serious health problems, including harm to developing embryos in the womb.  The Minamata Convention provides a blueprint for country action to eliminate the most harmful forms of mercury use, reduce mercury emissions from industry, promote mercury-free methods, protect children and women of childbearing age from mercury exposure and take steps to improve workers’ health and well-being.

AdvaMed spokesman Jon Dobson said use of mercury in the U.S. is largely limited to sphygmomanometers, dental amalgams and thermometers, but added he knows of “no current efforts to ban mercury in the U.S.”

In a separate report, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks said recently that the amount of mercury inhaled from dental amalgams is not enough to deem them a serious health threat. SCHER said not enough is known about the potential risks of alternative materials and more research should be done to ensure that nonmercury amalgams are as safe or safer for use.  The committee urges manufacturers that use mercury alternatives in amalgams to fully declare the chemical composition of the product in the labeling.

REFERENCE:  FDA News; International Medical Device Regulatory Monitor; November 2013, Vol. 21, No. 11

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