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Industries Dependent On The Continued Use of Mercury Amalgam Restorations

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 find 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.

From: "Al Dube'" <adube@solmetex.com>
To: <info@altcorp.com>
Subject: mercury free dentists
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:05:01 -0500

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 environment.

Please reconsider your name or actually do something to make it right.

Al Dube'

SolmeteX, Inc."

E-mail Mr. Dube at adube@solmetex.com

For more information on SolmeteX Inc. see http://www.solmetex.com

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 removal
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 SolmeteX solution.

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 year [Pierce 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 differences."

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 dentist.'

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; 15:207-218

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 1997;47(2):105-109

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): 780-788

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 Abstracts)

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

These and other studies can be ordered through the National Library of Medicine at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/


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


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