In dentistry, the use of amalgam—a combination of metals that includes mercury—is still hotly contested. Even yet, amalgam is still used by many dentists when necessary. Dentists may see patients with amalgam restorations even if they don’t use the material themselves. That’s why it’s so important for dentists to know how to properly dispose of their mercury amalgam waste.
Pollution from mercury
Both natural and human-caused activities may introduce mercury into the environment, which can then poison it. Volcanic emissions, crustal degassing, and evaporation from water bodies are the most significant natural sources of mercury in the environment. Elemental mercury is released into the environment as a byproduct of human operations such as mining, the combustion of fossil fuels, and the improper disposal of waste. Fertilisers, fungicides, and even waste may all contribute to mercury levels in the soil.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists mercury as one of the top 10 compounds, or groupings of chemicals, that is a significant public health concern due to the wealth of evidence indicating its negative effects on human health, the environment, and animals.
Once it reaches marine habitats, microorganisms convert it into methylmercury. ii
Then, it may build up in the fish and shellfish food chain. Predatory fish of a larger size may also have high mercury levels if they feed on animals that produce the element, such as plankton. Fish eating is a major contributor to human exposure to mercury.
Amalgam In Dentistry
Amalgam used to be a common filler material since it was inexpensive, long-lasting, and simple to insert. As concerns about amalgam’s effects on human health and the environment have grown, however, so have proposals for a phase-out of the material.
First discovered in Japan in 1956, Minamata’s sickness was traced back to a chemical factory’s leakage of methylmercury into the wastewater stream between 1932 and 1968. Named after the city and the events that took place there, the Minamata Convention was established in 2013 to prevent harm to human and environmental health caused by emissions and mercury spills.
While the European Commission’s 2017 Regulation on Mercury did not outright ban the use of amalgam in dentistry, it did restrict its application to “deciduous teeth, children under 15 years, and nursing mothers, unless the dentist determines it is absolutely essential due to the patient’s medical condition.”
In addition, the European Commission commissioned an “Assessment of the feasibility of phasing out dental amalgam,” the results of which showed that amalgam use had dropped by an estimated 43% between the time of the previous assessment of dental amalgam in 2010 and the time of the study’s publication (2020).
The British Dental Association (BDA) maintains, however, that amalgam is still widely used and preferred in several situations. The British Dental Association (BDA) claims that there is a dearth of alternatives that provide equivalent benefits, that some restorative materials may cause negative environmental outcomes (although they note that more research is needed), and that dentists need to make individual decisions and assessments regarding amalgam waste disposal, with the best interests of the patient in mind.
Important things to think about during amalgam waste disposal
Dental offices that still use amalgam must keep segregating it and disposing of it properly to meet regulatory standards even as its use seems to decline. As of January 1, 2019, dental establishments utilising amalgam and/or removing dental amalgam fillings are required by the Regulation on Mercury to have an amalgam separator to prevent the discharge of amalgam into wastewater systems. They must be able to trap and hold at least 95% of amalgam particles.
Effective Methods for Handling Amalgam Waste
Each wastewater drain used to discharge amalgam waste must have a certified amalgam separator installed and operating, or a holding tank must be utilised and disposal arranged with a licenced waste haulier;
- Use only precapsulated amalgam;
- Recover, stockpile, and recycle all contact and non-contact amalgam materials, including capsule shells, at a facility that specialises in mercury reclamation or distillation. Collect teeth with amalgam fillings that have been removed, and reuse or recycle them;
- Keep any used amalgam in sealed containers until they can be sent to a recycler or reclamation centre;
- Implement documented protocols and educate employees at dental practises on how to properly dispose of amalgam debris;
- The amalgam waste container should be clearly labelled.
- Place traps at the base of each chair to collect amalgam and reuse the material;
- Reuse or recycle the amalgam that has been collected by amalgam separators, vacuum pump filters, chair-side traps, or any other device used in the processing of wastewater;
- To clean up a mercury leak, do as directed.
- Take the time to put your dental practice’s policies and procedures in writing, and educate your employees.
Proper mercury amalgamation disposal
There are a variety of amalgam separators on the market, so it’s important to choose a reputable, high-quality vendor that can suit your dental clinic’s specific demands and stick around to help you out after the fact. With Trikon Clinical Waste’s BSI-approved amalgam separator, you can be certain that your dental office is in compliance with all applicable regulations for the disposal of amalgam waste.
Moreover, Trikon Clinical Waste includes expert installation by a certified dental engineer as part of your service agreement. We will replace your amalgam separator at recommended service intervals to further assist your company. Dental practices may demonstrate compliance with state and local regulations for the management and disposal of amalgam waste by taking the necessary precautions.
About Trikon Clinical Waste
In the United Kingdom, TCW is the go-to company for healthcare and infectious waste management because of our dependable, efficient, and complete compliance service that is tailored to each individual client and performed by our well-educated local personnel. The spread of disease may be stopped in its tracks and cross-contamination avoided with the aid of our cutting-edge infection control solutions and healthcare waste management services.
For personalised clinical waste solutions, get in touch with TCW today!