The Environmental Impact of Dental Amalgam
Dentists working with amalgam fillings in any capacity are the number one contributor of mercury to Publically Owned Treatment Works facilities which can ultimately contaminate the water supply. A growing number of cities and counties across the United States have already mandated that all dentists have an amalgam separator installed and the likelihood of a federal mandate is fast approaching. According to the EPA, dentists discharge 3.7 tons of mercury to Publicly-Owned Treatment Works facilities each year.
Local POTWs are not adequately equipped to effectively filter out mercury amalgam, allowing the byproduct to mix in with other waste collection. The tainted waste is then dispersed through water, landfills, incinerators, and agricultural fertilizers, causing the contamination of our air, water, and food supplies. If the amalgam waste is sent to a landfill, the mercury may be released into the groundwater or air. If the mercury is incinerated, mercury may be emitted to the air from the incinerator stacks. And finally, if mercury-contaminated sludge is unknowingly used as an agricultural fertilizer, some of that mercury may also evaporate into the atmosphere. Through precipitation, this airborne mercury eventually gets deposited onto bodies of water, land and vegetation that supply the food we eat.
High levels of mercury in humans have been linked to diseases and ailments such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrigs, hearing loss, chronic fatigue, reproductive issues and more.
What is an Amalgam Separator and How Does it Help?
Amalgam separators have been developed to address this imminent threat. An amalgam separator is a mercury collection device that sits inline between a dentist’s operatories and vacuum pump—typically in the equipment room. Dental waste water flows through the vacuum line and passes through the amalgam separator where pumice, teeth fragments, and most importantly, dental amalgam and mercury are filtered out and collected. The filtered water continues to flow through while heavy waste and sediment is collected and stored for proper disposal.