More Progress Toward a Mercury-Free Future

by | Oct 22, 2014 | Heavy Metals, Mercury / Dental Amalgam

no mercuryEven if you’ve never had a “silver” mercury amalgam filling in your mouth, you’re still affected by them day in and day out. Improper or careless disposal of amalgam waste ultimately pollutes our water, our air, our food – in short, all the stuff of our existence. In fact, it accounts for about half of all mercury that enters the public water supply – an estimated 4.4 tons every year.

So the EPA’s proposed rule to limit mercury discharges from dental offices is a very welcome development.

Specifically, the rule requires dentists to use amalgam separators and “other Best Management Practices” to collect mercury and other metal waste before it has the chance to be flushed with the wastewater.

“This is a common sense rule that calls for capturing mercury at a relatively low cost before it is dispersed into the POTW,” said Kenneth J. Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “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….”

We’ve done just that in our own office for years. It is, after all, common sense.

An amalgam separator uses gravity to collect solid waste so it can be properly disposed. Current models can keep up to 99% of mercury out of the sewer system. And they trap other metals, as well – like the silver, copper, tin and zinc that typically make up dental amalgam.

What happens when mercury amalgam isn’t caught?

Dental Mercury’s Toxic Journey Back to the Environment

But separators are just one part of the solution, as Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice pointed out in a recent email on the EPA rule.

Remember, separators cannot stop dental mercury from reaching the environment via other pathways, such as the cremation of human bodies containing amalgam. So what’s the best way to stop dental mercury pollution? Stop using mercury amalgam dental fillings.

And truth be told, there are much better safer—not to mention aesthetic—alternatives to amalgam, such as composites. These can be as strong and durable, and we don’t have to remove nearly so much natural tooth structure to place them.

Of course, the best practice is to clean your teeth routinely so you don’t need any fillings at all.

The new guidelines come after the signing of the Minamata Convention, which calls for the global reduction of mercury. You can help. If you haven’t already done so, join Consumers for Dental Choice in petitioning the FDA to get on board with our country’s commitment to reducing mercury pollution.

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposal for the next 60 days. A public hearing is also scheduled for November 10 at 1 p.m. in the William J. Clinton East Building, Room 1153. The agency expects to finalize the rule in September 2015.

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