Storing and disposing of dental amalgam waste is governed by a stringent set of laws.
Part of a dentist’s job is emphasizing preventative care: brushing teeth twice a day, regular flossing, and visiting the dental chair twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups. Beyond the basic care, dentists also perform fillings, many made up of amalgam, and in the spirit of prevention, this includes keeping dental amalgam waste out of the environment.
By weight, amalgam is 50 percent mercury, but it is combined with other metals to make it safe and stable for patient use. Because of its chemical makeup, amalgam cannot be treated like regular waste, as it has the potential to release mercury back into the environment.
According to the EPA, dental offices are the single largest source of mercury at sewage treatment plants. Dentists should employ the use of amalgam separators, which takes the excess dental amalgam waste and prevents it from entering water systems.
It is imperative for dental practices to ensure the safety of their patients, staff, and community by properly disposing of amalgam waste in accordance with all state and federal laws.
Amalgam should NOT
- Be disposed of in the regular trash. It has the potential to contaminate ground water and air.
- Be incinerated. The mercury can be released into the air.
- Be treated as medical waste. It is a hazardous waste.
- Be autoclaved. The volatilized mercury will escape from the autoclave, presenting an immediate health hazard to dental office staff.
- Be separated and collected in-office, stored, and recycled. This includes scrap amalgam.
- Be handled as a “universal waste” or hazardous waste.
- Be disposed of by a hazardous waste hauler.
The EPA recommends wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks when handling amalgam waste. Using specified amalgam containers can properly store all amalgam waste, including chairside traps suction pump filters, as well as extracted teeth with amalgams.
When it’s time to remove discarded amalgam from your facility, contact Medxwaste to have it safely and securely hauled for compliance and health.
Dental facilities are an important part of preventative health care, and as such should dispose of medical and hazardous waste regularly to avoid accumulation. Any facility generating regulated medical waste should have a plan for its management that complies with federal, state, and local regulations to ensure health and environmental safety.