Dental Tribune International

Dental practices urged to install amalgam separator

SACRAMENTO, Calif., U.S.: The use of dental amalgam contributes to mercury pollution and poses an environmental threat to ecosystems. In accordance with the regulation on the installation of dental amalgam separators published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Dental Association (CDA) has recently urged dental facilities to install an amalgam separator in their offices. Facilities that can certify that they do not place or remove dental amalgam, except under limited circumstances, are exempt from this rule.

The EPA’s rule, which was published in June 2017, is aimed at reducing mercury release into the environment. Most dental offices discharge mercury into publicly owned treatment works, which means that it eventually ends up in rivers, lakes, bays and the ocean. Amalgam separators are intended to capture mercury before it is discharged into sewers and will guarantee the proper recycling and disposal of mercury. The device must be installed by July 14, 2020.

The EPA rule requires dental facilities to collect all waste amalgam and disallows the use of line cleaners that have a pH value of between 6 and 8, are acidic or contain oxidizing agents. Waste amalgam includes amalgam found in chairside traps, screens, vacuum pump filters, instruments or collection devices. Additionally, the amalgam separator must be compliant with the American National Standards Institute/American Dental Association specification No. 108 for amalgam separators (2009) with technical addendum (2011), the International Organization for Standardization 11143 standard (2008), or subsequent versions that require amalgam separators to reach 95% removal efficiency or higher.

Dental facilities are responsible for regularly inspecting and maintaining amalgam separators and should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For those who need compliance assistance, the CDA has published a Q&A resource for its members in which it details key dates, specifications and required documentation.

Dental facilities that had installed amalgam separators by June 14, 2017, are required to replace their separators by June 14, 2027. The EPA regulation does not apply to mobile units or offices where only one dental specialty is practiced. This includes oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics.

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