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Written by Dentistry Today Friday, 01 October 2010 14:01
In a recent EPA press release, the agency stated its intention to propose a rule next year requiring all dental practitioners to separate the mercury from dental amalgam waste before disposal. The rule would not be finalized until 2012. “While we’ve preferred voluntary installation of amalgam separators and recognize the challenges dentists face in understanding the environmental impact of their practices,” said Susan Beck, Director of the Eco-Dentistry Association, “unfortunately, we see the highest rate of separator installation in areas where the requirements are mandatory.”
The EPA is recommending that dental offices voluntarily install and utilize “existing technology,” such as amalgam separators. “Voluntarily and promptly installing a separator is the responsible thing to do,” noted Eco-Dentistry Association Director Susan Beck. “Otherwise, dental office mercury waste ends up burdening local water treatment plants in the very communities in which dentists practice.”
The Eco-Dentistry Association, the authority on green dentistry, notes that some dentists are not aware that they need an amalgam separator. “We often hear from high-tech dentists who no longer place amalgam fillings that they don’t think they need a separator. This is simply not so,” explains EDA co-founder Ina Pockrass. “While counterintuitive, dentists who only remove amalgam restorations actually generate, on an average, more mercury-containing waste than those who place the material.”
According to the EPA, 50% of the mercury entering local waste treatment plants – about 3.7 tons each year – comes from dental amalgam. Amalgam separators, however, can take 95% of the mercury out of the amalgam waste that is discharged to local treatment plants. “Our message is simple,” explains Pockrass. “Whether you put amalgam in or take it out, please deal with it responsibly by installing a separator.”
About the Eco-Dentistry Association™
The EDA is an educational organization that provides standards, best practices, and certification for green dental offices, and offers the public access to dental professionals who share their values of wellness and environmental stewardship. More information can be found at www.ecodentistry.org.