The Effects of Dental Amalgam on the Environment Essay

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The Effects of Dental Amalgam on the Environment The disposal of dental amalgam, specifically the mercury component, has become a controversial topic in the past twenty years. Due to the concern this issue brings, many studies have taken place regarding the effect of mercury on the environment and in humans. Amalgam is the most common material used in restorative dentistry due to its low cost, ease of use and stability (Chin et al., 2000). The basic ingredients include silver, tin, copper and mercury. Mercury is the most abundant component in amalgam and can be toxic in different forms, such as dust or vapor (Drummond, Cailas & Croke, 2003). Amalgam waste is generated during placement and replacement of restorative materials. …show more content…
This heterogeneous mixture of liquids and amalgam particles enters into waste water treatment plants and then into lakes and streams. Studies show that the amalgam particles settle in this heterogeneous mixture. These particles can range from 3 millimeters (mm) to 0.01mm in size (Jokstad & Fan, 2006).
There are several separating techniques based on gravitational pull that can be beneficial in removing the particles before they enter the environment via waste water (Drummond et al., 2003). The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using amalgam separators to aid in the collection of amalgam particles. Some types of separators include filtration, centrifuge, chemical removal and sedimentation. The sedimentation technique is the most commonly used separator. This technique allows the particles to settle and then the water is removed using a low-volume pump (Jokstad et al., 2006). The specific gravity of amalgam is ten times that of water which allows this technique to work (Batchu, Rakowski, Fan & Meyer, 2006). Amalgam separators can remove anywhere from 40-80 percent of amalgam particles before they can reach the waste water. This is a ten percent increase from offices that do not use separators at all. Installation of these separators is not required in all states; however, it is strongly encouraged by the ADA’s best management practices (BMP) (Jokstad et al., 2006). According to an article by Batchu et

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