16 June 2019
Addressing Amalgam Waste
All health care facilities have a responsibility to ensure their various waste streams do not create public health risks and should always strive to lessen the impact their waste has on the environment. One waste stream of particular importance to dental practices is amalgam which contains mercury and other metals that can be released into wastewater during the placement and removal of dental fillings. Although amalgam has been proven safe, affordable and durable in treating patients, practices need to use caution when disposing of it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that mercury is a toxic chemical and can bioaccumulate (become concentrated) throughout multiple levels of the food chain. Eventually, human exposure occurs and that’s of grave concern considering there are approximately 120,000 dental offices that use or remove amalgam in the U.S.
Complying with the EPA Final Rule
To reduce mercury contamination in the environment, the EPA introduced regulations requiring dental offices to install an amalgam separator that achieves 95 percent removal efficiency. This equipment separates amalgam waste from the dental facility’s wastewater at the source, so it can be recycled instead of entering waterways through publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). Several states and local governments also require the use of a separator as it is considered a best practice in dental waste disposal.
The EPA final rule went into effect nearly two years ago in July 2017. Dental facilities subject to the rule that began discharging amalgam contaminated wastewater after July 14, 2017 were required to immediately be in compliance; however, practices that had been discharging before then have until July 2020 to comply. This grace period presents an optimal time to ensure your organization is fully prepared for compliance. Here are three strategies for effectively and efficiently meeting the rule’s requirements.
Stericycle can help your organization follow safe dental waste disposal practices and maintain compliance. Learn more about Stericycle’s diverse dental waste management offerings and how we can help you protect your business.
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