For many years, lead was used in all kinds of applications. The oldest known item made using lead is an Egyptian figurine from 4,000 BC!
It took centuries for people to discover that lead actually carries a lot of risks. However, it still has some uses in the modern day, especially in the medical and dental fields.
If you work in a dental office, you'll definitely need to know about proper lead disposal. Not sure how to properly and safely get rid of lead foil waste and other lead items? Then this guide is for you; keep reading to learn how to stay safe.
Wondering why you need to worry about lead?
This soft metal is easy to shape and useful for many different purposes. Unfortunately, it's also poisonous.
Before people knew about the dangers of lead, it seemed like the perfect substance for many applications. The shiny quality of the metal made it a great addition to paint - or so it seemed. Because it doesn't corrode, it was used to make pipes for water.
However, inhaling, eating, or drinking lead proved to be highly toxic over the years. Once people discovered why lead was dangerous, the work to remove it from homes, businesses, and industries began.
Today, we know that lead needs to be properly disposed of and can be recycled for reuse.
Lead disposal matters, because if you don't follow proper processes, the lead can contaminate the area around you and harm other people.
You can't just throw lead into the trash like you can with most waste. Lead that's not properly disposed of will get into the soil and water, where it can travel far and poison countless people and animals.
Putting hazardous materials like lead in with the regular trash has a serious environmental impact. The damage to the water supply is the biggest concern since contaminated water can have long-lasting and far-reaching effects. Water treatment facilities can't protect from all harmful substances. It's up to you to keep lead out of the water.
Wondering how to safely dispose of lead? You have a few options - here's how to handle the waste properly.
Many companies specialize in getting rid of hazardous waste. Contact one in your area to see if they take lead foil. Make sure they're licensed to handle the waste appropriately in your area.
Lead melts at high temperature and can be used again. In fact, the majority of today's lead products become recycled. To safely get rid of lead and also help the environment, this makes a great disposal option.
However, before you send lead to a recycling company, contact them and make sure they're prepared to work with it. You can't just put lead in the regular recycling bins along with the aluminum cans.
In a dental office, there are a few different kinds of lead waste you might encounter. Here are some of the most common ones, and some ideas for how to handle them.
Lead foil waste is one of the most common things you'll need to work with. It's used to protect x-ray film from damage. Lead shields radiation, which is why it's so often used in tandem with x-rays.
This foil is essential for keeping radiation from damaging important x-ray images. But you'll need to recycle or otherwise properly dispose of it after it's been used.
Lead aprons are another one of the most common lead waste items you'll find in a dental office.
Like the foil, these aprons also work to protect against radiation. They're worn by x-ray techs and patients to keep the radiation from harming their bodies. You can use these aprons many times. However, eventually, they'll need to get replaced, and you must dispose of the old ones properly.
Sometimes, the manufacturer who made the apron will have recommendations for how to dispose of it correctly. X-ray accessories companies might also accept trade-ins of old aprons for new ones.
Finally, you can also contact your local landfill to see if they accept lead waste.
We don't want to use scare tactics to get everyone to do proper lead disposal. However, knowing a bit about the health effects of lead exposure will help you always remember to handle it with care.
Lead poisoning has a cumulative effect. This means that over time, the exposure will build up to more serious symptoms.
After lead enters your body, it travels all throughout it. It can affect everything from your bones to your brain and also harms your kidneys and liver, which are responsible for handling toxins and waste.
To assess lead exposure, lead levels in the blood are usually measured. However, lead actually gets stored in the bones and teeth.
Although lead exposure gets worse with time, professionals agree that there's no minimum safe lead exposure. Even small amounts can cause harm, which is why it's so important to take care with lead foil and other waste.
Lead poisoning has a wide range of symptoms that affect the brain and body. It can cause headaches, fatigue, weakness, memory loss, and much more. When children get exposed to lead, the damage tends to be even worse.
If your office doesn't have a clear lead disposal system, it's time to a change.
Even if all current employees know how to dispose of lead, having a system gets everyone on the same page. It ensures that you all follow the proper procedures and that new employees will be on board. Make lead disposal part of your basic training, so no one will be at risk.
Proper disposal is also important for following regulations. Wondering what the EPA says about waste disposal? Don't miss this post.