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Is your dental practice ready for the EPA's amalgam rule?

Is your dental practice ready for the EPA's amalgam rule?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s amalgam rule requires that most dentists be in compliance on July 14. That’s approaching fast.

Is your dental practice in compliance with the EPA’s rule? If not, now’s the time to take the necessary steps to make sure the office is in compliance. Most dental practices must have amalgam separators installed by the July 14 deadline.

The EPA established this regulation to manage how dental amalgam is handled in order to prevent too much of the substance from being discharged into sewer and stormwater systems. We will explore more about why keeping amalgam waste from those systems is important later in this blog post.

Practices have had time to prepare for the EPA rule

The EPA issued its final rule that requires most dental offices in the United States to install amalgam separators in December 2016. The rule was the result of several years of work and cooperation between the EPA and the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA is on board with the regulation, having called it “a fair and reasonable approach to the management of dental amalgam waste.”

However, that rule was withdrawn when the White House administration sent out a memorandum a month later that ordered all federal agencies to put a hold on new or pending regulations about to go in place.

In June 2017, though, the EPA again issued a final rule that reinstated the amalgam separator regulation. Compliance under that rule for most dental practices will be enforced beginning July 14, 2020.

What the EPA’s ruling means for dentists

For most dentists, the EPA’s ruling means that by July 14, existing offices and practices must have an amalgam separator installed in order to prevent waste from entering stormwater and sewer systems. Dental offices that were new at the time of the June 2017 final ruling had to comply with the standards by July 14, 2017.

So, that means many practices still have a few months until their July 2020 deadline.

There are exemptions from the rule for other practices, too. Those include practices in oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics.

Mobile dental units and practices where dentists do not place amalgam rather only remove amalgam in emergency situations are also exempt from the ruling.

Why amalgam waste must be regulated

Most people out of the dentistry industry know dental amalgam as silver fillings. That’s due to the silver color of this popular cavity filling material.

Dental amalgam contains a mixture of liquid mercury and a powder that is made of silver, tin, copper, zinc and other metals. It’s a very durable and long-lasting filling solution. It also is safe for use by dentists, as the trace amount of mercury found in dental amalgam fillings is not enough to cause harmful effects.

In large quantities, though, such as the quantities that without separation a dental practice would release over time into its waste, could pose a potential health and environmental risks due to the mercury that it contains.

This is why the EPA has focused on regulating dental amalgam waste. There are serious potential ramifications if it is not handled properly.

The health and environmental risks posed by mercury

If not separated and recycled by a qualified recycler, those large quantities of amalgam produced by dentist offices could end up reaching sewage treatment plants and other wastewater facilities. The amalgam can also find its way into landfills.

No matter the end destination, if amalgam is not disposed of properly, it can leak into water sources or be released through the burning of other trash. These situations could result in amounts of the waste that are harmful enough to cause health issues among humans and animals, as well as other adverse environmental effects.

The mercury found in amalgam is what causes these issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that mercury exposure can have negative impacts on a person’s lungs, kidneys, eyes, skin as well as nervous digestive and immune systems. Unborn babies, young children and anyone who has been exposed to mercury over long periods of time are at risk of

That’s why installing amalgam separators is such a major point of emphasis for both the ADA and the EPA.

How amalgam separators work

As their name suggests, amalgam separators remove dental amalgam waste from other liquids and materials that normally enter sewer and stormwater systems through dental practice drainage systems.

The separators act as a solids collector that are installed on vacuum lines in dental offices. They often separate the waste using sedimentation, filtration or centrifugation. Some separator units use a combination of these methods to separate amalgam waste from other waste that enters drains.

Learn what your practice needs to do now

The next step for your dental practice is to determine whether or not you are in compliance with the EPA’s amalgam rule. That’s where we come in.

DRNA is proud to be the complete regulatory solution for the dental community. We provide waste management solutions that take into consideration regulations affecting not only amalgam, but also sharps, medical waste, pharmaceuticals and x-ray waste disposal.

For dental amalgam waste, though, we have compiled an entire page full of compliance resources to help you make this determination. You can access a webinar that discusses every aspect of the regulation, including background, compliance requirements, deadlines and the costs associated with coming into compliance.

You can also gain access to a free amalgam rule compliance guide that covers much of the same ground. It is a great place to start planning your practice’s strategy for coming into compliance with the EPA’s rule.

Let DRNA provide amalgam waste management solutions

Once you have become familiar with the information provided in the webinar and guide, you can then get an idea of what amalgam separators you may want to install in your office before the July 14, 2020, compliance deadline hits.

Don’t wait, though. Contact DRNA today to learn more about how we can help your practice prepare for the fast-approaching EPA rule compliance deadlines.