World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry is dedicated to ending dental mercury use. Asian Center for Environmental Health, in collaboration with ESDO and the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry, has been working diligently for a long time to phase out mercury dental amalgam from Asia.
As Bangladesh is a signatory country of the Minamata Convention, BDS together with ESDO made a call to the dental surgeons of Bangladesh to put an end to the use of mercury amalgam in the treatment of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children in June, 2018. In accordance with that, they urged to the government to officially prohibit the use and export of mercury and mercury-containing products.
Dental amalgam is a widely used filling material for treating dental cavities containing mercury- a heavy metal which severely affects human and environmental health. Worldwide movement has already started against mercury amalgam. ESDO is the first organization in Bangladesh that took part in this global movement and is still fighting against this toxic mercury. The association of Bangladesh Dental Society – BDS is working hand to hand with ESDO from the very beginning of this movement.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between ESDO and BDS in 2016 with a view to eliminating “Mercury Dental Amalgam” from Dentistry Sector in Bangladesh by 2018. One of the main components of dental amalgam filling is mercury which is very harmful for human health as well as for environment. It has been used for more than 150 years. Mercury vapor is emitted during food chewing and this mercury containing vapor enters into human body which causes many problems for human body as well as for the environment.
The World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry initiated its campaign in Bangladesh in 2010. Environment and Social Development – ESDO is the pioneer organization to deliberately work on this issue since the beginning. Under the umbrella of Asian Center, the campaign started to expand its magnitude. Incessant efforts in terms of awareness raising campaigns, policy advocacy and action based research brought some significant outcomes in Bangladesh.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water, and soil. Because mercury is a heavy, liquid metal at room temperature and a good conductor of electricity, it has unique characteristics that have historically been utilized in a wide variety of products, including barometers, numerous types of industrial equipment, measuring devices, convenience light switches in cars , alkaline and other batteries, light bulbs, flow meters at sewage treatment plants, and such novelty items as games and jewelry.
Currently, various forms of mercury are used in many products. Such as: . . 1. Fluorescent and other lighting,
2. Button-cell batteries,
3. Laboratory equipment,
4. Certain switches and relays,
5. Dental amalgam,
6. Skin lightening cream
9. Chemical solutions, etc.
These mercury-added products are used in residential, commercial, as well as industrial environments. Additionally, elemental mercury is used in industrial processes, such as chlor-alkali production, artisanal gold mining, and certain religious and cultural ceremonies.
ESDO has been working on mercury added products, especially on skin lightening cream. Skin lightening creams containing mercury – a heavy metal and dangerous neurotoxin – are still widely available to purchase in shops and online, despite being banned by governments. That’s the finding of new research by a global alliance of NGOs, working to eliminate mercury pollution.
Testing throughout 2019 revealed 95 of the 158 products purchased in the 12 sampling countries including Bangladesh exceeded the legal limit of 1 ppm (part per million), with mercury levels ranging from 40 ppm to over 130,000 ppm.
More than two-thirds (65 of the 95) of those were bought online from such internet marketers as Amazon , eBay, BidorBuy, Lazada, Daraz, Flipkart and Jumia. Amazon has already removed some products from sale after campaigners in the US showed the results of the research to the company ahead of the report’s launch.
In 2018, leading online retailers signed a ‘Product Safety Pledge’ to remove dangerous products. Many of the same brands were found to contain high mercury levels on several consecutive sampling occasions, in different years, and purchased from both physical shops and via e-commerce platforms. Most were manufactured in Asia, especially in Pakistan (62%), Thailand (19%) and China (13%), according to their packaging.
Products were tested in accredited laboratories in the EU and US and using a hand-held X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer or analyzer by two regional hubs: CASE in Côte d’Ivoire (for Africa), and Ban Toxics in the Philippines (for Asia). The study did not test products from Latin America. It tested in Africa, Asia, the EU and the USA.
Over 110 countries have committed to the Minamata Convention to phase out and limit mercury, including in cosmetics. A meeting for parties to that convention is being held in Geneva this week.
Mercury in waste, containing the free element and its compounds, and mercury containing-products continue to harm the environment of Bangladesh many years after they have been disposed of. Bangladesh has no speciﬁc guidelines regarding the management of mercury waste, or how to safely manage the uses of either products or equipment that contain mercury or mercury compounds.
The evaluation of mercury emission, therefore, is required to assess new, potential and existing sources, of the mercury emission as a result of the use of mercury and mercury-containing products. The calculations of mercury emission and release into the environment made in this report are based on surveys, guidelines, methods and other sources.
The international demand for the control of mercury emissions arose following the UNEP’s Governing Council’s 22nd session in February 2003. After considering the key ﬁndings of the Global Mercury Assessment Report, the governing Council decided that there was suﬃcient evidence of signiﬁcant global adverse impacts from mercury to warrant further international action to reduce the risks to humans and wildlife from the release of mercury into to the environment. The Governing Council decided that national, regional and global actions should be initiated as soon as possible and urged all countries to adopt goals and take actions, as appropriate, to identify populations at risk and to reduce human-generated releases of mercury.
This commitment to addressing the global adverse impacts of mercury pollution was reinforced by 27 Governments and regional economic integration organizations at the 23rd session of the Governing Council in February 2005. The Governing Council also requested UNEP, in cooperation and consultation with other relevant organizations, to facilitate and conduct technical assistance and capacity building activities to support the eﬀorts of all countries to take action on mercury pollution.
In response to the Governing Council’s request, UNEP has established a mercury program within UNEP Chemicals (UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics), with the immediate objective to encourage all countries to adopt goals and take actions, as appropriate, for the identiﬁcation of mercury-exposed populations, for the minimization of mercury exposure through outreach eﬀorts and for the reduction of anthropogenic mercury releases.
Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO has also undertaken the project titled “Reduction of demand of mercury in mercury containing products in Bangladesh” in collaboration with UNEP to raise awareness and document mercury use and mercury added products in Bangladesh. This initiative also aims to support Bangladesh government towards ratiﬁcation of Minamata convention.
Inventories of releases of priority hazardous substances constitute an important decision making tool in the process of mitigating environmental impacts from the pollutants in question. Such inventories are often vital in the communication with stakeholders like industry, trade, manufacturers and the public.
The information on mercury pollution contained in this report can be used to determine which sources of mercury should be addressed in Bangladesh for release reduction initiatives. Moreover, baseline inventories and related information can be used to set eﬀective approaches and to draw further attention of the concerned government oﬃcials and stakeholders to take appropriate actions and measures.
This report is mainly focused on the preliminary ﬁeld survey on mercury uses and releases, within Bangladesh territory. These surveys were undertaken during January-May, 2015 throughout Bangladesh by the ESDO team. The team followed the UNEP toolkit format in the design of the survey. Based on the preliminary data, the ﬁndings are as follows:
Based on ESDOs baseline survey on 2015;
Due to lack of information we were unable to obtain information for calculations including primary metal production, mercury in biocides and pesticides, paints, toys and related products, etc.
Bangladesh does not yet have any speciﬁc guidelines regarding the management of mercury release into the environment, or regarding how to safely manage the use of products/equipment that contain mercury, mercury compounds or other speciﬁc chemicals. The existing legislation generally focuses on the overall management of chemicals particularly related to pesticides (for agricultural purposes) and waste management (for the environmental purposes).
The absence of standardization and certiﬁcation of the quality products and the high costs associated with these processes and products are some of the barriers of shifting from mercury to alternative healthcare instruments and dental amalgam. Absence of end-of-life management of discarded CFLs and other devices are also reasons for concern.
Bangladesh has limited strategies in place for identifying a site contaminated with mercury, as well as identifying and assessing the impact of mercury on environment and human health. The reason behind this is the lack of training, ability and capacity for knowledge sharing. Policy makers, regulators and the users of mercury containing goods are generally uninformed about the issue. There is also some lack of media awareness and the common mass is under informed of the toxicity of mercury.
Future recommendations to minimize mercury use and releases can be: