Chicago The American Dental Association's
"National Advocacy Initiative" to reduce
dental amalgam in wastewater launched today is a step
forward, but nearly toothless, say health and
environmental groups (see
the press release).
- The ADA
Initiative and accompanying back
up report by Environ is based on flawed
assumptions that dental mercury pollution is not a
"significant" problem and that installation
of amalgam separators by dentists is cost-prohibitive
and not necessary.
- "There is much 'fuzzy science'
and doublespeak in the ADA's 'Initiative'--which
should more appropriately be called
'Impediment'," said Charles Brown, Esq., of
Consumers for Dental Choice. "The upshot is that
ADA recommends doing little more than what the law
requires." The Environ report's cost analysis for
capturing dental mercury--estimated at between $45,000
to $141,000 per pound--is wildly off-base, compared to
real life examples in dental clinics in both the US
and Canada, say the groups. "I am surprised that
the ADA would stand behind such wildly erroneous cost
estimates for capturing dental mercury, when their own
scientists have recently evaluated amalgam
separators," said Bender. "Based on the
latest government estimates, the average cost for
dental clinics to operate amalgam separators is about
$60 per month, with a one time upfront cost of between
$1,000 to $1,500 to purchase an amalgam separator. How
that equates to over $40,000 to capture a pound of
dental mercury is beyond me." Read the full MPP
analysis of the Environ Report.
Statement: Dental Amalgam in Dental Office Wastewater
The American Dental Association (ADA)
and its members are committed to providing the best
possible health care in an environmentally responsible
manner. Since the early 1980's, the ADA has advocated for
the proper handling and recycling of amalgam tooth-filling
wastes from dental offices.
In addition, the ADA developed a
comprehensive action plan that addresses amalgam in dental
office wastewater, including an assessment of the release
of mercury from dental offices, educational activities for
dental office personnel and the effectiveness of current
amalgam reduction technology. The plan is being
implemented now, starting with the scientific assessments
on which all ADA policy is based.
In the meantime, the ADA has evaluated
the efficiency of commercially available amalgam
separators, a dental office device that filters amalgam
particles from wastewater. The results of that study were
published in the May 2002 issue of The Journal of the
American Dental Association as a guide to ADA members.
The ADA is aware that some waste amalgam
particles generated during the placement and removal of
amalgam restorations (fillings) end up in dental office
wastewater. However, a 1996 study found that when amalgam
particles were subjected to simulated wastewater treatment
processes, no soluble mercury was detected, even at a
concentration of one part per billion.
Nonetheless, dentists around the
country, with leadership from organized dentistry, are
increasingly adopting a best management practices approach
to environmental issues.
The ADA does not endorse any single
pretreatment source reduction method but believes that any
reduction method should consider factors specific to a
dental office. In addition, the ADA will continue to
evaluate new reduction technology as it becomes available
and actively address the issue of amalgam in dental
Page Updated: December 21, 2002