You’ve been hearing about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new dental amalgam regulation for a couple years but have put off taking steps to get into compliance. The effective date, July 14, 2020, is now just around the corner — and if your practice handles amalgam fillings, you need to take action.
Why It’s Important
When dental amalgam isn’t properly disposed of, it can end up in the sewage system or a landfill. From there, the mercury in the amalgam can leach into groundwater or the air.
While the amount of mercury in one filling isn’t harmful, large amounts of mercury cause a public health concern. Mercury exposure can lead to neurological defects in infants, as well as neurological, behavioral and kidney problems in adults who are regularly exposed to a high rate of the element.
Collectively, dental offices can have a huge effect on the amount of mercury Americans are exposed to. If you’re still using amalgam in your practice, adherence to the EPA regulation is no longer optional. Start recycling all dental amalgam, if you haven’t already. Follow these steps to protect our community’s water supply — and avoid penalties from the EPA.
Step 1: Install an amalgam separator.
To properly dispose of amalgam, you must first collect it. Equip all dental chairs with chairside traps and install an ISO 11143 certified amalgam separator with a separation rate of 95% or greater.
And be sure to keep up with maintenance on the device. You must keep documentation showing the installation date, name and address of your disposal company — as well as maintenance and service records — for a minimum of three years. If your amalgam separator malfunctions, you must have it repaired or replaced within 10 days.
Step 2: Collect amalgam waste.
The new EPA regulation states that dry amalgam must be collected in a clearly marked amalgam waste container for recycling. Dry items include contact and noncontact amalgam, teeth that contain amalgam, chairside traps, vacuum filters and used amalgam capsules. These items must be placed in an amalgam waste bucket for recycling.
Step 3: Clean your vacuum line with a neutral cleaning agent.
Using harsh chemicals, such as bleach, to clean your vacuum line can result in the amalgam dissolving and being flushed out with wastewater. Instead, use line cleansers that have a pH between 6 and 8. This will clean your vacuum line without breaking down the amalgam.
Step 4: File your compliance report by Oct. 12, 2020.
For existing dental practices, a one-time compliance report must be submitted to the Control Authority (the municipality that operates your sewer) no later than Oct. 12, 2020, or 90 days after a transfer of ownership.
For new dental practices, a one-time compliance report must be submitted to the Control Authority no later than 90 days following the introduction of wastewater to the sewer.
Exempt dental practices must still file a one-time compliance report certifying that no dental amalgam is placed or removed except in limited emergency or unplanned, unanticipated circumstances, or that they fall under the exempt specialties.