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US Environmental Protection Agency reinstate amalgam management ruling

In a bit to decease impact on environment, practices that place and remove amalgam will now be required to use separators. (Photograph: ShrackiFoto/Shutterstock)

Thu. 22. June 2017


WASHINGTON, USA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule on the management of dental amalgam discharges into sewer systems. The regulation closely follows the American Dental Association’s (ADA) best management practices and will come into effect as of July 14, with compliance for most dentists set for July 14, 2020.

Practices will now be required to use separators and be prohibited from flushing waste amalgam, such as from traps or filters, down drains. The regulation also prohibits the use of bleach or chlorine-containing cleaners that may lead to the dissolution of solid mercury when cleaning chairside traps and vacuum lines. In a bid to reduce paperwork for dentists, the new rule will require a one-time compliance report to be filled out by all practices, regardless of whether they place or remove amalgam.

The ADA, which worked with the EPA for several years on the final rule, commended the agency for what it considers “a fair and reasonable approach to the management of dental amalgam waste.”

ADA President Dr. Gary L. Roberts said, “The ADA shares the EPA’s goal of ensuring that dental amalgam waste is captured so that it may be recycled.” He added that the organization believes the new rule, which is a federal standard, is preferable to a patchwork of rules and regulations across various states and localities.

Although less than 1 percent of mercury released into the environment from man-made sources comes from dentistry, the ADA has encouraged dental offices to follow its best management practices for amalgam waste. In 2009, the association amended its best management practices to include the use of amalgam separators that comply with ANSI/ADA Standard No. 108 for Amalgam Separators, which takes into consideration the standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization, a worldwide federation of national standards bodies.

Furthermore, the ADA has committed to developing practical resources to aid member dentists with questions they may have regarding compliance. In addition, ADA Business Resources has partnered with HealthFirst, a vendor that offers ADA member dentists special pricing on amalgam separator devices that meet the federal regulatory requirements, along with recycling services.

In December 2016, the EPA issued a final rule requiring most dental offices nationwide to install amalgam separators, but withdrew the rule after the White House’s Jan. 20 memorandum ordering federal agencies to freeze all new or pending regulations.

The new rule exempts dentists who practice in oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics. The regulation also excludes dentists who do not place amalgam and only remove amalgam in unplanned or emergency situations (estimated at less than 5 percent of removals) and mobile dental units. Dentists who already have separators are grandfathered for ten years.

The EPA expects that compliance with this final rule will annually reduce the discharge of mercury by 5.1 tons, as well as 5.3 tons of other metals found in waste dental amalgam, to publicly owned treatment works.

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