In September 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed standards under the Clean Water Act to reduce discharges of dental amalgam to the environment. The EPA estimates that dentists discharge approximately 4.4 tons of mercury each year to Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) and that there are approximately 160,000 dentists working in over 120,000 dental offices who use or remove amalgam in the United States – almost all of whom discharge their wastewater solely to POTWs.
Many states have already implemented amalgam discharge-cutting programs requiring amalgam separators and other Best Management Practices in dentist offices. The American Dental Association also recommends separators and other Best Management Practices for amalgam.
Waste amalgam can have minimal impact on the environment when properly discarded so it’s important to remind your staff that amalgam waste should never be thrown in the garbage, included in infectious waste containers, or rinsed down the drain.
While coming up with ways to implement Best Practices to reduce waste, keep in mind amalgam fillings aren’t right for every patient. Even though composite resins and ionomer cements are slightly more expensive and less durable than amalgam, they provide great cosmetic benefits that an increasing number of patients are demanding.
Along with the rest of your everyday dental supplies, SmartPractice carries several systems to comply with the proposed ruling and fit your practice needs. The SolmeteX Hg5 Amalgam Separator from SmartPractice is a professionally engineered system that enables your staff to capture mercury discharge easily, without the use of electricity, timers, or pumps, and recycle waste with convenient shipping containers and documentation. The Amalgon Alloy Waste Container is another essential system for the disposal of scrap amalgam, vacuum traps and noninfectious contaminated teeth. Simple-to-use equipment are easy ways to make a big impact on the environment.
Has your city or state implemented requirements to reduce amalgam discharge to the environment? How has it benefited your practice? Share your stories in the comments.