The continued use of mercury amalgam
restorations has spawned whole industries whose
livelihoods are dependent upon removal of this toxic metal
from dental office waste streams where amalgam
restorations are both placed and removed. Obviously some
people in this industry see nothing wrong with the fact that putting mercury
in someone's' mouth generates mercury waste. It is
only when the mercury restoration is removed that they
fault. Wouldn't it be easiest just to ban the use of
mercury amalgam altogether making this whole argument a
mute point. Of course this would mean that these
people would be out a job.
The following is an e-mail received at ALT
Inc. from Mr. Al Dube of Solmetex Inc.
I would like to suggest that the name Mercury
Free Dentist is misleading. The so called
Mercury Free Dentist releases enough mercury in one
day to contaminate a 22,000 acre lake to above acceptable
discharge levels. When a filling is removed only a
portion of the mercury is trapped. In the order
of 20,000 mg/l of mercury is discharge directly to the
sewer drain. This mercury gets transported to
the sewage treatment plant where the sludge is disposed of
in one of two ways. Incineration is the first
option, 80% of sewage sludge in the US is
incinerated. This releases the mercury from the
amalgam into the atmosphere. The other 20%
of the sludge is used as fertilizer for your food
products. Based on your information of mercury
release you are releasing mercury to the environment
there as well.
Dentists are the leading contributor of
mercury to the sewage treatment plant. By not
capturing the mercury at the dental office, your mercury
free dentists are the number one contributor of mercury to
the environment. For any dentist who removes amalgam
fillings to claim to be mercury free is
hypocritical. They are actually one of the worst
offenders there is with regard to mercury release to the
Please reconsider your name or actually
do something to make it right.
E-mail Mr. Dube at
For more information on SolmeteX Inc.
The following are just a few excerpts from the SolmeteX
Inc. web site.
"Mercury is a proven
neurotoxin, and its toxicity increases as it moves up
the food chain due to its bio-accumlative nature. A recent
study by the National Academy of Science reported that
over one million pregnant women in the U.S. were exposed
to high levels of mercury by consuming contaminated fish.
They further reported that 60,000 children were born each
year with learning disabilities due to the impacts of fetal
mercury exposure. Accordingly, mercury is now EPA's
number one toxin of interest.
The challenge: mercury
A heavy metal used in a variety of processes, mercury
is highly toxic. It has been proven to bio-accumulate
and bio-magnify in aquatic life, thus quickly increasing
its toxicity up the food chain. Its improper use and
disposal can add a series of costly steps to an
organization's operation, and to its bottom line.
Who needs an answer- and why?
Dental practices, large and small, clinical chemistry
laboratories, histology laboratories, pathology
laboratories, research laboratories, chlor-alkali
facilities, health care waste incinerators, and
environmental engineering consulting firms who need to
provide cost-effective, targeted solutions to their
clients' mercury removal concerns...
The problem - proper, safe amalgam disposal
Several independent studies show that between 15% and 90%
of the mercury that winds up at sewer treatment facilities
can be attributed to the discharge of amalgam particles
from the replacement of fillings. Today, the dental
industry is recognized by regulators as the largest source
of mercury contamination to sewage treatment facilities. Still,
amalgam is a cost-effective, efficient and safe material
to be used for fillings - we just need to find a better
method to dispose of it. And that's precisely the
The proven answer
SolmeteX technologies are designed to selectively bind
specific target metal or metal complexes, very tightly and
rapidly. The SolmeteX patent-pending filter media, KeyleX®,
enables a space-efficient system to do a big job. The
adsorbent technology allows SolmeteX to provide "end
of pipe" solutions for large flows, as well as
"point of use" systems to treat smaller flows.
Treatment at the point of initial contamination prevents
larger flows from being polluted, thereby reducing costs."
A Different Approach From
MAXIMUM Separation Systems Inc.
The MAXIMUM Separation System is a dental amalgam
separator that removes dental amalgam, thus removing
mercury from dental wastewater before it is discharged
into the environment. With the growing global awareness of
mercury pollution from dental wastewater in our
environment, the need for recycling dental amalgam waste,
rather than the current disposal methods of this hazardous
waste, has never been greater. According to the
Scandinavian Institute of Dental Materials (NIOM):
- Corrosion of amalgam will release mercury.
- Corrosion of small particle waste is increased due
to the high surface/volume ratio.
- Mercury is released and accumulates especially in
fish and their predators.
A cost effective way for small and large dental offices
to recycle their amalgam waste is pollution reduction at
the source with the use of the MAXIMUM Separation System.
There has been much debate about whether or not to
continue the use of dental amalgam. While the number of
amalgam restorations that are being placed are on the
decline, the real dilemma is what is to be done with those
that are already in place. In 1993, it was estimated that
150 million amalgam restorations were placed in the USA,
weighing over 75 tons [Osborne].
It has also been estimated that the dental profession
contributes 30 tons of mercury to the environment each
and Thorne] and that there are 22 billion existing
amalgam restorations that will eventually have to be
removed. It is this removal process that is a concern for
many dentists, governmental agencies, dental associations
and the general public. Dr.
P.L. Fan (et al) stated, "In locations where
other sources of mercury discharge have been substantially
reduced or are virtually eliminated, reduction of the
mercury discharge from dental offices may make noticeable
There is not a law, in any country, banning the use of
dental amalgam, however, there are existing laws in place
regarding pollution levels of dental office wastewater.
Governmental agencies are striving towards point of source
wastewater treatment, as presently there is a strain on
the centralized wastewater treatment facilities. The
collection and distribution of the sludge containing mercury
or mercuric compounds from these treatment facilities
onto farmers' fields should be reduced or eliminated
before they are introduced into the water table or our
food chain. This belief is supported by J.
Drummond (et al)'s study, which stated: "The
discharge of this waste into the sewer system from a large
number of dental offices and clinics may limit the ability
of the wastewater treatment facilities to meet their
effluent requirements". No new laws are required for
the treatment of dental office wastewater, just
enforcement of existing ones.
Some may consider that the most important reason for
amalgam separation is legal risk management. The fact that
untreated dental office waste effluent contains
significant amounts of pollutants is driving pollution,
health and environmental authorities to target dental
offices as the source of unacceptable mercury pollution.
Commissions and task forces are being struck at municipal,
state, provincial and federal levels to develop
regulations to curb the pollution coming from dental
offices. The dental associations' strategy to deny the
problem and refuse to implement a professional
self-regulated solution is forcing the government into
action by imposing the use of amalgam separators, as has
been done in Europe.
In Canada, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the
Environment (CCME), which consists of the Ministers of
Environment from the federal, provincial and territorial
governments, has adopted a Canada-Wide Standard for
Mercury in Dental Amalgam. This includes the Best
Management Practice of the use of an ISO 11143 certified
amalgam separator, to achieve the end goal of a 95%
national reduction in mercury releases from dental amalgam
discharges to the environment by 2005. The Montreal Urban
Community and the City of Toronto passed by-laws which
require dentists to install amalgam separators by July 1,
2002 and January 1, 2002, respectively.
Most dentists lease their office space. Most commercial
leases contain covenants by the tenant that prohibit the
discharge of pollutants into the building, including its
sewer systems. As landlords are held responsible for the
discharge of amalgam from their buildings into the public
sewer system, they will look to their dentist tenants for
indemnification for damages and fines and issue directions
to cease the discharge of amalgam into the building sewer
system. Without amalgam separators, a dental office may be
unable to do removal and replacement of existing amalgam
fillings. We encourage you to ask your lawyer and
insurance agent about the impact of discharging
amalgam/mercury into the public sewer system. F. Wallace
Clancy & Son Ltd., a Canadian insurance company, has
stated that " to our knowledge, there is no insurance
available for the knowing discharge of pollutants"[Elliott].
The onus remains with the individual dentist and stricter
regulations may be forthcoming[Chilibeck].
The MAXIMUM Separation System is certified to ISO
standards for amalgam separators and is the industry
leader in removal of waste amalgam. Using the MAXIMUM
Separation System allows a dentist to avoid the legal
liability issues associated with the discharge of amalgam
waste into the environment. The 'cradle to grave' burden
summarizes this: 'Once a dentist mixes and places an
amalgam restoration, the legal responsibility for the
ultimate disposal of it is established, and that lies upon
The question is not "Why
separate?", but "Why not separate?"
Ahmad R., Stannard J. G., Mercury Release From Amalgam:
A Study In Vitro and In Vivo. Operative Dentistry, 1990;
Calais M.D. et al, Physio-chemical Properties of Dental
Wastewater. Water Environment Federation, 1994; 317-327
Chilibeck R.H., Amalgam Separators - a Professional
Responsibility. Electronic J Dent 2000: Ref# EJ10223, http://www.goDENT.com/ejDENT
Accessed June 7, 2000
Drummond J. L. et al, ICP Analysis of Dental Waste
Water. J Dent Res 1996;75: International Association of
Dental Researchers (IADR) Abstracts
Elliott G., F. Wallace Clancy & Son Ltd., personal
communication. March 2000
Fan P.L., Arenholt-Bindstv D., Schmalz G., Halbach S.
and Berendsen H., Environmental Issues in
Dentistry-Mercury. FDI Commission. Intl Dent J
Hocking M.B., O'Brien R.N., Importance of Convection to
the Enhancement of Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rates in
Inclined Tubes. Biorheology, 1987; 24:473-48.
Letzel H., de Boer F.A. and Van T Hof M.A., An
Estimation of the Size distribution of Amalgam Particles
in Dental Treatment Waste. J Dent Res, March 1997; 76(3):
Osborne J.W., Dental Amalgam and Mercury Vapor Release.
Adv Dent Res, September 1992; 6:135-138
Pierce J. and Thorne K., Abstract 3126: Chemically
designed inorganic polymer filters for aqueous mercury
separation. J Dent Res 1997;76 (special issue: IADR
Rubin P. G., Mercury Vapor in Amalgam Waste Discharged
From Dental Units, Archives of Environmental Health. vol.
51 July/August 1996; (No.4):335-337
For an excellent review see Dental Mercury, Pollution
Prevention and Waste Management Practices for the Dental
Office from the City of Palo Alto, CA. http://www.city.palo-alto.ca.us/cleanbay/pdf/mercurydentsl.pdf