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New Law Proposed To Reduce Dental Waste


The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has come up with a new proposal to modify the existing standards, which will consequently help to lower the release of dental amalgam waste in our environment.

The EPA projects that after the new law takes full effect under the Clean Water Act, it may reduce the metal discharge to POTWs (Publicly Owned Treatment Works), by a whopping 8.8 tons every year!

As per the new proposed rule, all dentists will have to reduce their release of mercury discharges into POTWs. In particular, they have to lower the dental waste known as ‘amalgam discharges’ to a minimal level using amalgam separator technology in combination with other reduction strategies.

Research reveals that almost 50% of the mercury that gets into the POTWs belongs to dental offices. This mercury, which is from the amalgam, enters the environment in numerous ways like being discharged into water bodies. When they combine with other microorganisms, they give rise to methylmercury which is an extremely toxic kind of mercury that gets accumulated by marine creatures such as fish, or fish eating animals. Humans who consume such fish become vulnerable to methylmercury.

Amalgam refers to the mixture of mercury with other metals used by dentists during routine cavity fillings. While removing the previous fillings or while clearing the extra amalgam using a fresh filling, mercury invariably gets released. This then reaches the environment in many ways, such as being discharged into water bodies.

In fact, numerous state and local Government bodies have started amalgam discharge reduction programs, which have made it mandatory for the dentists to use amalgam separators or similar methods in their offices, in order to reduce this form of dental waste.

Kenneth Kopocis the deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water stated, “This is a common sense rule that calls for capturing mercury at a relatively low cost before it is dispersed into the POTW.” He further stated that “The rule would strengthen human health protection by requiring removals based on the use of a technology and practices that approximately 40 percent of dentists across the country already employ thanks to the ADA (American Dental Association) and our state and local partners.”

The EPA will also consider public reactions and comments regarding this proposal over the coming two months after it is published in the Federal Register. However, the agency believes that the law will be finalized by this coming September.