Here are the facts:
- On December 14th, the FDA will again revisit the scientific issues surrounding dental amalgam. Many States have established their own regulations, but the government may rule as Canada did, establishing mandatory amalgam separator installation, sooner rather than later.
- Dental amalgam has already been banned in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, traditionally countries that have been ahead of the curve in terms of protecting the environment (it's still unclear how amalgam restorations impact the host but many European countries restrict use in pregnant women and young children. Still, the dentist might be at the most direct risk as a result of amalgam dust).
- When amalgam escapes into waste water, the EPA estimates that treatment facilities capture about 90%, but the amalgam is then disposed in landfills, through incineration, or in agriculture. Through those processes, the mercury contaminates land, vegetation, air, and bodies of water.
- The Mercury Policy Project (MPP) has identified dentists as the largest polluter of mercury into waste water. Moreover, dental amalgams contribute one-third of the mercury waste.
- High exposure to mercury has been linked to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune effects, diminished intelligence, reduced memory function, mental retardation (to exposed fetuses), and so on; we probably don't understand the real impact of low exposure to mercury (still, there are very direct links to the aforementioned ailments in industrial waste dumping areas).
- Easily installed amalgam separators can capture over 99% of mercury before it escapes into waste water. Canada is close to requiring mandatory installations of amalgam separators. An ISO11143 certified amalgam separator is a component of the ADA's Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste.
What can you do? While the ADA and EPA have debated this issue for many years, it's becoming increasingly clear that amalgam separators are a best practice if the use of amalgam is necessary in a restoration. To prepare our customers who haven't already installed an amalgam separator, we will be adding a blog entry outlining the installation process. Finally, there is a pdf file on our tech support page that will explain the differences of some popular models, including the SolmeteX Hg5, Asdex models, and AD-1500. We hope to continue offering valuable advice in this crucial facet of dentistry. As always, please call us with any dental equipment installation questions: 1-800-331-7993.