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Issue 37
, 2012
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Concern over increase in use of mercury in dental sector

Bindu Shajan Perappadan
Source: The Hindu, Date: , 2012

Mercury in the mouth of the Indian population (used in filling cavities) at present can be approximated at 396 tonnes, reveals a new report, “Mercury in Our Mouth”, released by non-government organisation Toxics Link.

According to the report, annual use of mercury by the dental sector in India stands at around 65 tonnes, where 49 tonnes gets into cavities and 16.2 tonnes is mostly thrown into the environment as non-contact amalgam.

Says Toxics Link associate director Satish Sinha: “An expected addition of 6,500 dentists by the National Rural Health Mission could lead to increased mercury consumption by approximately 11.2 tonnes annually. A major shift has been seen in the metropolitan and other cities in India, where the use of amalgam fillings has largely been replaced by alternatives.”

“The scenario in the rural sector, however, was quite different as per the survey. This is where the policy intervention is required to gradually shift from mercury to alternatives. It very important to save the next generation, our children from the deadly toxics effects of mercury,” says Mr. Sinha.

The study further reveals that the estimated annual mercury release due to removal or replacement of old fillings (contact amalgam) is 66 tonnes. This entire amount would mostly end up in municipal bins and thus soil and groundwater contamination. These two mediums are also rich in micro-organisms responsible for methylation of mercury. “All this would lead to bio-accumulation and bio-magnifications of mercury in the food chain. Mercury accumulates in the muscle tissues and is neuro and nephrotoxic substance. Other than this, several studies have linked it to cancers and immune system disorders,” says Mr. Sinha.

Children of women consuming sea food are more likely to develop learning disabilities due to exposure to mercury. Many countries have banned mercury fillings in children and pregnant women and it is time India takes a stance to protect this vulnerable population, says the study.