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Letters: Amalgam separators

January 02, 2012

With amalgam separators soon becoming a mandatory requirement in all dental offices in the U.S., I have to question how much money is being made off dentists.

First, I would like to say I am for keeping dental mercury out of our water supplies and landfills. However, it seems we are being taken advantage of as dentists. We are a captive audience and as such, recycling/reclamation companies can charge us for the separator equipment, charge to haul away and dispose of the amalgam sludge, and charge to replace either the whole separator or filter depending on the type of separator you have. I do not have a problem with this either. The problem I have is that these companies then separate and clean the metals and then sell them on the open metals market which to me is double dipping.

A dentist I sat with during lunch at a national dental meeting in May of this year told me he kept his separator sludge and gave it to a metals dealer. It was assayed for gold, platinum, paladium, silver and mercury. The metal dealer gave the dentist a check for $1,600. The total value for the metals had to be worth much more for the dealer to make it worth his while and make money off the metals after the recycling process.

In our office, we take our dry scrap metal, crowns, etc., and turn them in to a metal dealer, receive a check for the metal, and donate it to our local community food banks to help feed the less fortunate. I would do this with my amalgam sludge, but I have yet to find a company who gives you money for your sludge. It would be nice for the ADA to find companies that would reimburse some money to dentists for their amalgam sludge and give dentists documentation for proper disposal instead of "double dipping."

Joseph D. Bedich, D.D.S.
Cortland, Ohio

Editor’s note: Before proceeding in the way suggested by the writer, or taking any other approach to disposing of amalgam or other dental waste, it is very important to consult all applicable state and local laws.