As of December 15, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency has established new guidelines to moderate and reduce the amount of mercury being emptied into public water treatment centers. For dental offices, the main source of mercury discharge in these public centers, this means installing or updating amalgam separators to trap the mercury present in dental amalgam fillings before being released into the waste system. Once the mercury is separated, it can then be recycled. Amalgam separators are an affordable solution to this problem, and can usually be installed within a few hours.
Regulations and Requirements
According to the EPA’s Fact Sheet on Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards, “dental offices that place or remove amalgam must operate and maintain an amalgam separator and must not discharge scrap amalgam or use certain kinds of line cleaners.” Compliance is expected from new dental offices within thirty days of the rule going into effect, while existing offices will have until 2019 to comply. Both existing and new offices will be required to submit a compliance report to the EPA, documenting that they have met the new regulations.
Exempt and Non-exempt Practices
In addition to new and existing offices, dental clinics and dental schools are also expected to comply with the new regulations. Dentists practicing in mobile units, or in the fields of orthodontics, prosthodontics, periodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery are exempt, as well as those who only deal with amalgam in unplanned emergency removal situations.
Foradditional information, refer to the EPA’s website.