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Public Health (17-03-2014)

Scientific opinion on dental amalgam (update 2014)

The European Commission and its non-food Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) have published the final opinion on Environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury from dental amalgam1, which updates the 2008 SCHER Opinion on the same subject in light of new evidence.

In the opinion, SCHER estimated the worst, average and best case scenarios in terms of concentration of mercury in surface water, and the related potential risk to the aquatic ecosystem - using the environmental quality standards set out in EU legislation as a bench mark. Although the best and worst case scenarios would be out of the ordinary, they are likely to occur in Europe - at least at local level.

For the worst case scenario, SCHER concluded that under extreme local conditions (high concentration of mercury during dentistry procedures and lack of separator devices), mercury concentration may be above the safe threshold established by EU legislation. Consequences could be harm to the aquatic ecosystem, bioaccumulation and the risk for secondary poisoning in humans. These risks would vary according to the exposure conditions.

SCHER also explored the likelihood of mercury entering the food chain, and the consequent potential health risks for top predators, including humans. Here, SCHER concluded that compliance with the Water Framework Directive’s threshold for mercury would contribute to protecting the ecosystem and also help avoid adverse effects on human health.

The full opinion can be found here

1A public consultation running from 25 September to 20 November 2013 and a hearing in Luxembourg on 6 November 2013, preceded the adoption of the final Opinion. Contributions received during the consultation phase and SCHER’s response are available online.