Understanding the EPA’s Proposed Amalgam Separator Rule

UPDATE: The 2016 EPA Dental Effluent Guidelines were pulled from The Office of The Federal Register; and, though signed, will not be published at this time. Therefore, this rule WILL NOT go into effect. However, many states have state level laws requiring the installation of amalgam separators in their state’s Dental Offices. These state level laws will be unaffected by the withdraw of the EPA rule and remain in full force and effect. If there are any further changes related to this rule, we will be sure to update this blog accordingly.

In September 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule regarding dental amalgam. This regulation would require all existing and new dental practices to use amalgam separators to prevent amalgam from discharging into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs).

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Universal Waste Refresher

Did you know that improper management of universal waste is one of the top generator violations? The EPA’s universal waste regulations provide strict standards for hazardous waste management for federally designated “universal wastes,” including:

  • Batteries;
  • Pesticides;
  • Mercury-containing equipment; and
  • Bulbs (lamps).

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What You Need to Know about Dental Amalgam

Controversy surrounds dental amalgam, the material sometimes used to fill cavities, because about half of it is composed of elemental mercury. Amalgam is a mixture of metals consisting of liquid mercury and a powdered alloy composed of tin, copper and silver. Elemental mercury reacts with and binds together with the alloy particles to form an amalgam. These fillings are also referred to as “silver fillings” due to their silver appearance.1

Elemental mercury releases mercury vapor that is primarily absorbed through the lungs, harmfully affecting them. Coughing, difficulty breathing and headaches are just a few of the symptoms of inhaling mercury. It is also possible for mercury to be absorbed through the skin; however, it is a much slower process.2

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When Lighting Goes Dark — Fluorescent Bulb Recycling

Eventually those long fluorescent light bulbs that have been flickering in the ceiling for months will burn out, and when they do, don’t throw them into the dumpster or dispose of them as hazardous waste. Instead, recycle them as Universal Waste. Fluorescent bulbs, including compact florescent lamps (CFLs) or u-shaped lamps and other high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, contain the hazardous material mercury and thus are regulated by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) under the Universal Waste Rule. The EPA created the Universal Waste Rule for certain wastes that are generated in a wide variety of settings including homes and businesses, and are able to have their hazardous components removed for the purpose of recycling. The Universal Waste Rule encourages proper disposal and limits the burdens of storage, handling, treatment, and recordkeeping associated with other types of hazardous waste.

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