The Minamata Convention Revisited

Conventions, treaties and guidelines are nothing but a bunch of hog wash if they are not followed. The problem is, usually there is a great injustice that costs some poor soul their lives or their health, etc, to which the “international community” (i.e. America, Israel, the UK and like 3 other Western European countries, usually Germany, France and a random Benelux country) responds with having a convention that brings about an acronym, and a task force to which woefully inadequate funds are allocated, and which then starts to print periodicals. By this time, usually, most of the international support and fervor will have died down, and nothing will come about the much needed change until something blows up again. Is this the fate of the Minamata convention, too?

The legacy of Minamata

The Minamata convention was an international assembly in which the greatest users and producers of mercury claimed that they will stop using it, and will use other products instead. One of the biggest buyers of mercury is the dental industry, as mercury is the main ingredient in amalgam fillings, the most used filling in the world today. The dental industry swore that it will forego mercury and start to eliminate it from their ranks, but the promise sounds hollow. But just how hollow is it? Have steps been made to actually do something about the problem of mercury, or is this yet another ploy?

Dental waste management


The Minamata convention is relatively successful, and one of the areas in which it has achieved the most success (arguably) in in the field of waste management. Since the issues with mercury have become apparent and rubbed in everyone’s faces, there has been a marked increase in how waste that has mercury in it is being managed. A lot of fines have been handed out for breaking the Minamata convention, but mostly in countries which are poor, have no way of enforcing the Minamata convention, and which Western countries need in order to dump their trash. Leaders in trash tourism like Rwanda have been experiencing some of this flack. International dental agencies are now educating the people over there in how to properly dispose of amalgam fillings so that ti does not seep into the groundwater and the soil nearby, and are taking steps to clean up the mess that is being caused.


While many steps are being taken and nice things are being done, it is still the case that these conventions are more talk than action, and that although a few initiatives may end up changing a life or two, these conventions do not change existing conditions. The rules of the Minamata convention need to be enforced globally, and their initiatives need to be taken seriously, or else mercury can poison all groundwater and we may all start to suffer from debilitating nerve damage.

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