Last May 14, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III signed DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0020 titled “Guidelines on the Phase-Out of Mercury Use in Dental Restorative Procedures” in line with the goals of Republic Act 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act, and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.
Under this groundbreaking policy, the use of dental amalgam will no longer be allowed after the phase-out period of three years from the effectivity of the said order. The directive bans the importation of liquid mercury and dental amalgam for dental restorative procedures, and further bans the use of dental amalgam for children 14 years old and below, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
“DOH A.O. 2020-0020 sets a clear path to the country’s transition to mercury-free dentistry. We laud its development in consultation with stakeholders and its eventual adoption as a milestone in the implementation of the Minamata Convention in the Philippines despite the country’s long-overdue ratification of this treaty,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, which is campaigning for the phase-out of mercury-added products in the market and the safe management of their associated wastes.
US-based Atty. Charlie Brown, President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry said: “We congratulate the government, the civil society and the dental community for this landmark policy issuance. This is a giant step toward phasing out the use of dental amalgam and phasing up the use of mercury-free alternatives, which can very well serve as a model for ASEAN member states.”
“This sets a remarkable precedent and really pushes the agenda further for international negotiations where it can be shown that mercury-free dental healthcare is possible,” said Lee Bell, Mercury Policy Adviser, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). “The enforcement of this policy will also restrict the flow of mercury that might be unlawfully diverted from dentistry to artisanal and small-scale gold mining,” added Lee who is based in Australia.
Under the order, dental amalgam capsules in combined, pre-dosed encapsulated form and for single use only will be allowed during the phase-out period for use by government dental units, local dental schools and private industrial dental clinics.
All manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, waste generators and users, including dentists, dental schools and researchers, are required to phase out dental amalgam during the designated three-year period.
According to the order, dental amalgam waste in dental clinics and dental schools will be collected, stored and disposed of in accordance with the rules and regulations for the management of hazardous waste and by an accredited waste transporter and treatment, storage and disposal facility.
DOH A.O. 2020-0020 takes effect 15 days after posting in the official website, its publication in a newspaper of general circulation and submission of a copy to the Office of the National Registry of the University of the Philippines Law Center.