EPA Initiating Rule to Reduce Mercury from Dental Offices
Recently, the EPA announced it intends to propose a rule to reduce mercury waste from dental offices. Mercury is a concern to human health because it is considered a persistent bioaccumulative toxic element.
According to the EPA, dental amalgams, or fillings containing mercury, account for 3.7 tons of mercury discharged into US waterways each year.
The EPA cited several studies and reports, including those from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the American Dental Association, which have identified dental offices as the main source of mercury discharges into publicly-owned water treatment facilities.
Mercury makes its way into the environment through discharges to rivers and lakes after the waste is flushed into chair-side drains and enters the wastewater system. Once released, certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that can damage brain development and nervous systems. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans.
Until the final rule is promulgated, the EPA is encouraging all dental offices to install amalgam separators, which should capture about 95% of the mercury that would otherwise enter waterways. Dental offices will be able to use this technology to meet the proposed requirements. The EPA expects to announce the new rule to reduce discharges in 2011 and to have it finalized by 2012.
Learn more about the dental amalgam effluent guidelines by visiting