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Amalgam Waste, Best Management

ADA Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste

Dental amalgam is used to repair a tooth damaged by decay. It is a mixture of metals that are bound together by elemental mercury. It is a hard, durable material that is safe and affordable.

To protect the environment, water treatment plants keep an eye on mercury levels in the water. Dental amalgam has little effect on the environment. Less than one percent of the mercury released into the environment comes from dental amalgam.1 Even this amount is not in the form found in fish, which is the greatest concern.

Dentists care about the environment. They want to limit the release of dental amalgam waste to the environment. To help them do this, the ADA has developed "Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste," or BMPs, which outline ways to handle and dispose of amalgam waste.

  1. Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Office of Research and Development. Mercury Study Report to Congress. Volume II: An inventory of anthropogenic mercury emissions in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Protection Agency. Publication No. EPA-452/R-97-004. December 1997, p. ES-6.
Please note: The ADA does not provide specific answers to individual questions about fees, dental problems, conditions, diagnoses, treatments or proposed treatments, or requests for research. Information about dental referrals, complaints and a variety of dental procedures may be found on ADA.org.

Overview

Less than one percent of the mercury released into the environment comes from amalgam1, and even this amount is in the form of amalgam and not methylmercury, the form of mercury which is of particular environmental concern. However, dentistry is committed to recycling dental amalgam.

To help in that endeavor, the ADA developed “Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste” (BMPs), a series of amalgam waste handling and disposal practices.

They include (but are not limited to):

  • Using chair side traps
  • Installing amalgam separators compliant with ISO 1114322
  • Using vacuum collection
  • Inspecting and cleaning traps
  • Collecting and recycling amalgam.

References

  1. Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Office of Research and Development. Mercury Study Report to Congress. Volume II: An inventory of anthropogenic mercury emissions in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Protection Agency. Publication No. EPA-452/R-97-004. December 1997, p. ES-6.
  2. International Organization for Standardization. ISO No. 11143—2008, Dentistry—Amalgam Separators. Geneva:ISO.

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Amalgam in Plumbing

Because dentists are good stewards of the environment, they are encouraged to limit the release of dental amalgam waste into the environment, whenever feasible. When there is a need for plumbing work or other activities that might dislodge amalgam waste adhering to the inside of pipes, some simple steps can be followed to minimize potential health or environmental issues.

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Additional Resources

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Dentists are encouraged to use BMPs to help reduce the effects of amalgam waste on the environment.