The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently released a policy statement affirming that dental amalgam is safe and effective in treating dental cavities, remarking “amalgam’s contribution to environmental mercury contamination is minimal, and that limiting or curtailing its availability could have negative health consequences, particularly in low-income areas.”
American Dental Association (ADA) President Robert Faiella echoed APHA’s analysis of amalgam use in dentistry by saying, “APHA’s new policy further vindicates the ADA’s own long-standing and scientifically based policy.”
Despite these findings, it is important that dental professionals continue to abide by state and local laws when it comes to the proper use and disposal of dental amalgam waste.
In the last five years, many states have introduced best management practices (BMPs) for dental amalgam waste to ensure dental offices properly capture and recycle their waste. In Washington, dentists are required to use amalgam separators in their offices unless the dentist can prove that their discharge meets the state limits for mercury (0.2 parts per million).
When choosing an amalgam separator be sure it is ISO-certified. Dentists are encouraged to confirm that their amalgam separator meets ISO 11143 standards at the time of installation. If maintained properly, ISO-certified amalgam separators are effective in removing up to 99 percent of mercury in dental wastewater.
Scrap amalgam must also be properly disposed of. The Department of Ecology’s (DOE) Hazardous Waste Services Directory contains a list of amalgam waste providers that service offices in Washington state. The directory can be accessed on The Source. Be sure to click the section of the directory that lists Mercury or Precious Metal Recycling.
DOE recommends that dentists ask amalgam waste providers the following questions because not every provider offers the same services:
- What is your area of service?
- Do you provide “regularly scheduled pickup services” or is this on an “as needed basis”?
- What kinds of amalgam waste do you accept? Wet, dry
- Do you provide packaging for storage, pick-up or shipping of the amalgam waste?
- How do you want the amalgam waste packaged (if you do not provide packaging)?
- What kinds of amalgam waste can be packaged together?
- Do you accept whole filters from the chair side trap and from the vacuum pump for recycling?
- Is disinfection required for amalgam waste?
- Do you accept extracted teeth with amalgam restorations?
If you have any additional questions about the directory or hazardous waste disposal, contact Michael Walsh at 800-448-3368 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.