While we embark on a journey to ensure health for our children, we often don’t account for dental care as a critical health issue. With the rising number of dental problems in children, the continued use of mercury amalgam in dentistry is most alarming. Recently, The Malibu Times interviewed Dr James Rota, where he characterised mercury as the second most deadly metal on the planet, next to plutonium. Mercury reportedly causes neurological development issues and reproductive problems. It can damage a growing brain, nervous system, kidneys and foetuses. Deficiencies can be caused in children who were exposed to mercury during pregnancy or in early childhood.Exposure during dental procedures can result in consequences that are lifelong.In a study, Vigarniya reported that mercury was the most common cause of diseases such as Amalgam Tattoo, Acrodynia, Hunter Russell syndrome and Minamata disease, etc. Children under 12 years of age, pregnant women, and nursing mothers, are most vulnerable to mercury toxicity. Children’s developing brains and neurological systems are especially susceptible to the neuro-toxic effects of mercury. The Minamata Convention acknowledges this, noting that parties are “aware of the health concerns, especially in developing countries, resulting from exposure to mercury of vulnerable populations, especially women, children, and, through them, future generations.”The SDPI studied 75 private clinics and surveyed more than 90 dentists. They found that 43% clinics were using mercury dental amalgam. Around 70% of the dentists surveyed did not prefer mercury filling for children below 12 years of age, or pregnant and nursing mothers.Over67% support the ban on mercury dental amalgam useThe impact of mercury is not anecdotal. Dr. Rota is of the view that mercury toxicity is a problem because of unnecessary dental fillings. He compared the situation to the people of the Roman Empire, who suffered because of their plates and knives — all of which were made of lead, and all of which gave them lead poisoning. Many countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany have banned mercury. Pakistan, being a signatory of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, has been working towards phasing it out through the Minamata Initial Assessment project activities, and some considerable progress is expected by the end of this year, Insha’Allah.The SDPI studied 75 private clinics and surveyed more than 90 dentists. They found that 43 percent clinics were using mercury dental amalgam. Around 70 percent of the dentists surveyed did not prefer mercury filling for children below 12 years of age, or pregnant and nursing mothers. Over 67 percent support the ban on mercury dental amalgam use. The full report can be found at www.sdpi.org. Mercury dental filling is not the only way out for dental fillings. Composite resins, glass ionomers, ceramics and others are few alternatives to mention. Composite fillings are a mixture of glass or quartz filler in a resin that produces a tooth-coloured filling. While practically more durable and aesthetically pleasing than silver-coloured mercury amalgams, composites are usually slightly more expensive but are health friendly. According to survey report by LUMHS, Hyderabad, alternatives to mercury dental amalgams are increasing day by day. .In many countries, mercury dental amalgam use is banned, restricted or discouraged, for children below 12 years of age, pregnant women, and breast-feeding mothers.At present, there is no legislation, specifically for hazardous mercury/mercury amalgam use in dentistry, at dental health care centres (private clinics, hospitals and teaching institutions) in Pakistan.The European Union is banning amalgam use for children under the age of 15, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, starting July 2018. It is time to stop storing mercury in our children’s mouths — and put it where it belongs: next to other hazardous waste in the garbage.It’s time to take the first step and ban or at least restrict and discourage mercury use to safeguard public health, especially for children, and pregnant and nursing mothers in the country.The writer is associated with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, June 10th 2018.