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The 2016 EPA Dental Effluent Guidelines were pulled from The Office of The Federal Register; and, though signed, will not be published at this time.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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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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