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The concern about the effects of mercury in the environment has increased over the years. Mercury in the environment is bioaccumulative, which means it can build up in fish and cause health problems in humans and other animals that eat fish. Many state health professionals recommend limiting fish consumption, especially for children and pregnant women. Dental amalgam waste can be recycled to help prevent the release of
mercury to the environment. Dental associations, dentists, waste
managers, and regulators have worked together to develop this guide
about amalgam waste recycling and handling.
Mercury is a naturally occurring metal, however, about half of the mercury released to the environment comes from human activity. Of that amount, 53% is emitted from the combustion of fuels for energy production and 34% is from the combustion of waste. Some mercury released into the air eventually collects in the waterways where it enters the food chain.
Although mercury in the form of dental amalgam is very stable, amalgam should never be disposed of in the garbage or infectious waste “red bag” and it should never be rinsed down the drain. The reason for this caution is that some communities incinerate municipal garbage, medical waste and sludge from waste water treatment plants. If amalgam waste ends up in one of these incinerated waste streams, it can volatilize at high temperatures and mercury will be released into the environment.
The good news is that amalgam waste kept separate from other waste can be recycled to reduce mercury emissions. Mercury can be recovered from amalgam wastes through a distillation process and reused in new products. After extensive review, waste regulators in the Great Lakes States recommend recycling amalgam as a best management practice for dental offices.
Below is a list of some amalgam waste recyclers that handle amalgam waste. Appearance on this list does not constitute an endorsement. Select a recycling facility that serves your amalgam recycling needs. Notice that not all the recycling companies accept all types of amalgam waste and services can vary widely. Contact a recycler before recovering amalgam and ask about any specific handling instructions.
We recommend asking amalgam waste recyclers the following questions:
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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