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Proper Mercury / Amalgam Management Creates Environmental Sustainability

May 23, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014 by Jessica Hope

Mercury is a chemical element and is the only known metalloid element that reaches a liquid state under standard conditions for temperature and pressure.  Mercury also devastates ecosystems and is toxic to wildlife and humans.  According to a research review by Chin et al., mercury is one of the major components found in dental-amalgam (Chin, Chong, Kluczewska, Lau, Gorjy & Tennant, 2000).  In addition dental amalgam is one of the most commonly used materials in restorative dentistry (Chin et al., 2000).

 Though dentistry makes up for a small percentage of the total emissions of mercury, dentists still need to consider their impact.  The environmental impact of dental mercury is mainly due to the poor management of dental amalgam waste (Chin et al., 2000).  The problem of environmental mercury contamination will not be solved by banning dental amalgam. As medical professionals, we should consider the various possibilities that can satisfy both the application of dental amalgam as a restorative material as well as minimizing the environmental effects (Chin et al., 2000).

In an analysis of amalgam removal in California by McGinnis and Vandeven, a cost-effectiveness analysis determined that the annual cost to the California dental industry by reducing mercury discharges to surface waters through the use of amalgam separators would range from 130,000 dollars to 280,000 dollars per pound (McGinnis & Vandeven, 2004).  This is important because about 25000 tons of mercury are discharged into the environment each year as a result of human activities (Chin et al., 2000).

Dental amalgam has been extensively used as a tooth filling material for many decades and has beyond a doubt saved millions of teeth that otherwise would have needed to be extracted (Jokstad & Fan, 2006).  Thus, as Chin et al. aforementioned we should not discontinue the use of amalgam, instead we should explore ways to reduce and properly dispose of these chemicals.

For assistance with hazardous waste management or for environmental sustainability consulting, call Hazardous Waste Experts today at 800-936-2311.

(Article by Douglas Macklin)   McGinnis, S.L., Vandeven, J.A., (2004) Cost-effectiveness of Removing Amalgam from Dental Wastewater, Journal of the California Dental Association, 32, No. 7 PMID: 15468537

Jokstad, A., Fan, P.L., (2006) Amalgam Waste Management, International Dental Journal, 56, No. 3 PMID: 16826881

Chin, G., Chong, J., Kluczewska, A., Lau, A., Gorjy, S., Tennant, M. (2000) The Environmental Effects of dental amalgam, Australian Dental Journal, 45, No. 4 Retrieved from 

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