Nigeria at the weekend made considerable progress in its bid to curb the use of dental amalgam, especially for women and children.
At two separate events in Lagos and Benin on Friday, July 13 and Saturday, July 14, 2018 respectively, stakeholders restated the resolved to end the application of amalgam, which contains mercury that is harmful to man and the environment.
During a visit on Friday by officials of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry and SRADev Nigeria to the Lagos State Ministry of Health, officials underlined the need for the phased-down of dental amalgam for the state to be a multi-stakeholder approach.
While considering an immediate withdrawal of use of amalgam for children, they set a 2020 date for eventual phase-out of the use of the product for pregnant and lactating mothers.
The campaign, said the participants, would likewise entail medical education in general hospitals in the state by the Ministry of Health, as well as public sensitisation programme.
It was also agreed that working groups – technical and general – would be constituted towards achieving stated objectives. It will include health and environment ministries, teaching and general hospitals, professional body associations of restorative and paediatric dentists, government departments, civil society organisations and the media.
The daylong meeting held at the Gbagada General Hospital was graced by dignitaries like Charlie Brown of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry, Dr Leslie Adogame of SRADev Nigeria, Prof Godwin Arotiba of the University of Lagos, Dr Lara Agbaje of the Lagos State Dental Services, Dr Adenike Awotile of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr Olubunmi Okunnu of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr Yetunde Ajayi of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Opeyemi Okoisor of the Nigeria Dental Association, and Dr A. O. Loto.
On Saturday in Benin City, the Edo State Government restated its commitment to end the use of dental amalgam in the state.
A resolution was reached at a one-day maiden stakeholders’ workshop on phasing down of dental amalgam use in Edo State organised by Sustainable Environment Development Initiative (SEDI) with the auspices of World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry.
Participants called for an end to dental amalgam use in children under 16, pregnant and breastfeeding women by July 1, 2018 and, urged the Federal Government, others states and all nations of Africa to end amalgam use in children.
Attended by state officials, civil society groups from the South-South region, Benin Chapter of the Nigeria Dental Association (NDA), President of the World Alliance for Mercury Free-Dentistry and the media, state officials said at the event that there is need to gradually eliminate the use of amalgam in and shift to the alternatives.
Edo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. David Osijo, who was represented by an Assistant Director, Nursing Services, Ministry of Health, Pastor (Mrs.) H.C Enunwaonye, emphasised that consideration is being given to compost as a better alternative to amalgam use in dentistry.
He said that, as the Health Commissioner of the state, he supported the use of alternatives to amalgam because of the danger it poses both to the human health and the physical environment. He assured that the state governor would be willing to end use of amalgam in the state when it gets to his knowledge.
He commended the efforts of the stakeholders particularly the civil society group that have been championing the campaign in Nigeria and for using Edo as a pilot state in the global initiative and the World Alliance for Mercury Free-Dentistry.
His counterpart in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainability, represented by Mr. Ehon Godfrey, said the campaign was coming at a time when the environment is deplorable and degraded because of chemicals.
He called for more sensitisation and advocacy to various communities on the alternatives to dental amalgam.
The commissioner added that the reason that people adduced for the use of amalgam is because its cheap and available, adding that the alternatives to amalgam should be made available for people to use.
In his welcome remarks, National Vice-chairman, civil society group on phase-down of dental amalgam in Nigeria, Dr Tom Aneni, said transformative steps have to be taken to move Nigeria on to a sustainable path and ultimately ensure an amalgam-free Africa.
Aneni said one of the challenges of the campaign to phase-down amalgam is the lack of policy/regulation in the country but that work was in progress to get it.
According to him, a phase-down of dental amalgam in Nigeria would ensure improved dental health and a cleaner environment in Nigeria for children, women and men, thereby promoting disease prevention, health promotion and prevention; show that it is possible for a broad range of stakeholders to agree on a common goal; access various opportunities of support available from the Global Environment Facility (GEF); and ensure a faster adoption of the phase down campaign in African region in such a way that no one is left behind.
Consultant, Paediatric Dentistry, University of Benin, Dr. Ogordi Philip, disclosed that the department does not put amalgam in children; rather, it uses compost.
He said, “Amalgam should be dental history and not for clinical use.”
Ogordi called for teaching/training of practitioners on the use of alternatives to amalgam in the country.
Secretary, NDA Edo State chapter, Dr Franklin Abhulimen, said the chapter is in full support of phase-down of dental amalgam based on several reasons for health and the environment.
“We want end to amalgam use in practice, there is need for change because of the way mercury flies around in the clinics,” Abhulimen said, even as he called for a policy on amalgam in Nigeria which he said the chapter will follow suit as soon as it is developed.
National Chairman of civil society for mercury phase down, Dr. Leslie Adogame, noted that Nigeria started the campaign way back when the discussion on mercury started.
He explained that there was some resistance at the beginning because of training practitioners have received on amalgam and that science had not really come up with alternatives but that science has since come up with alternatives.
Adogame hinted that the federal government had started the process to develop a national policy on the phase down since it ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury in February, 2018.
He called for collaboration between the ministries of health and environment in Edo State so that the objectives of the campaign can be achieved.
He also commended the President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, Mr. Charlie Brown, for his commitment to the campaign and interest in Nigeria.
“It is do able to phase out amalgam,” he added.
In a brief comment, Brown described the event as a celebration of the maiden stakeholders’ summit that was held last year.
Brown said phase down amalgam is something that Africa can do even if the west is saying “do not do it”. He called on civil society groups to take the message to the regions.