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About this Publication on Tooth filling materials

  1. Sources for this publication
  2. The Scientific Committees of the European Commission
  3. Background on the SCENIHR and the SCHER opinions on dental amalgams
  4. Specific questions asked by the European Commission to the SCENIHR and the SCHER

1. Sources for this publication

The texts quoted in level 3 are directly sources from :

The Levels 1 & 2 were written by Dr. Marisa Fernandez in collaboration with the GreenFacts editorial team and the DG Health and Consumers of the European Commission.

This publication is produced by GreenFacts under a contract from the DG Health & Consumer Protection of the European Commission.

2. The Scientific Committees of the European Commission

The Scientific Committees on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) and on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) are two of three independent non-food scientific committees that advise the European Commission on matters of consumer safety, public health and the environment.

These committees comply with the principles of independence, transparency and confidentiality. Members of theses committees therefore make a declaration of commitment to act in the public interest and a declaration of interests; requests for opinions, agendas, minutes and opinions are published; work and publications are done with regard to the need for commercial confidentiality.

The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR)

The SCENIHR was set up in 2004 to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on emerging and newly identified risks. It replaced the Scientific Committee on Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (SCMPMD).

SCENIHR addresses broad, complex or multidisciplinary issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of risks to consumer safety or public health. It also answers questions on related issues not covered by other community risk-assessment bodies.

Potential risks addressed by the committee include antimicrobial resistance, new technologies such as nanotechnology, medical devices, tissue engineering, blood products, fertility reduction, cancer of endocrine organs, noise and electromagnetic fields.

For further information on the SCENIHR, see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/04_scenihr_en.htm 

The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER)

The SCHER was set up in 2004 to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on health and environmental risks. It replaced the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (CSTEE).

SCHER addresses questions relating to examinations of the toxicity and ecotoxicity of chemicals, biochemicals and biological compound whose use may have harmful consequences for human health and the environment.

In particular, the Committee addresses questions related to new and existing chemicals, the restriction and marketing of dangerous substances, biocides, waste, environmental contaminants, plastic and other materials used for water pipe work (e.g. new organics substances), drinking water, indoor and ambient air quality. It addresses questions relating to human exposure to mixtures of chemicals, sensitisation and identification of endocrine disrupters.

For further information on the SCHER, see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scher/04_scher_en.htm 

3. Background on the SCENIHR and the SCHER opinions on dental amalgams

The SCENIHR Opinion on "The safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users" and the SCHER Opinion on "The environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury in dental amalgam" were published by the two Scientific Committees of the European Commission on 8 May 2008 following a public consultation procedure.

The SCENIHR and the SCHER had each undertaken a public consultation on the basis of a preliminary opinion. Interested parties submitted a series of comments or pertinent scientific information on each preliminary opinion by 22 February 2008.

Both opinions were finalized after consideration of the comments received.

4. Specific questions asked by the European Commission to the SCENIHR and the SCHER

In its Opinion on "The safety of dental amalgam and alternative dental restoration materials for patients and users", the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) was asked to consider the following questions:

  1. Is there scientific evidence that supports a link between amalgam and allergic reactions, neurological disorders or other health disorders?
  2. In view of the above, is the use of dental amalgam safe for patients and users, i.e. dental health professionals? Are certain populations particularly at risk, e.g. pregnant women or children?
  3. Is there scientific evidence that supports a link between alternative materials and allergic reactions, neurological disorders or other health disorders?
  4. In view of the above, is the use of alternative dental restoration treatment safe for patients and dental health professionals? Are certain populations particularly at risk, e.g. pregnant women or children?
  5. In view of the specific properties of dental amalgam and alternatives when used for dental restorative treatment, is dental health equally ensured by dental amalgam and alternatives?

In its Opinion on "The environmental risks and indirect health effects of mercury in dental amalgam", the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) was asked in particular to address – to the extent possible – the following:

  1. Are mercury releases caused by the use of dental amalgam a risk to the environment? The fate of mercury released from dental clinics as well as the fate of mercury released to air, water and soil from fillings placed in patients should be taken into account.
  2. Is it scientifically justified to conclude that mercury in dental amalgam could cause serious effects on human health due to mercury releases into the environment?
  3. Comparison of environmental risks from use of mercury in dental amalgam and use of alternatives without mercury.
  4. If the Committee under its work finds out that more information is needed, for one or more of the questions, the Committee is asked to provide a detailed list on what kind of information is needed to carry out the task.

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