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Laura Dorr is the executive editor of DPR's Modern Dental Network.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposal of new standards to reduce the release of mercury into the environment from dental offices.
Falling under the Clean Water Act, the new rule would reduce the amount of mercury from dental amalgam being released into the environment. Amalgam, which contains mercury and various metals, is discarded into public water systems via chairside drains when dentists remove or make dental fillings. Mercury coming from dental offices makes up about 50 percent of the total amount entering water treatment systems; The EPA stated that the new standards would reduce this discharge into the system by almost 9 tons a year.
“This is a common sense rule for capturing mercury at a relatively low cost before it is dispersed into publicly owned treatment works,” stated Kenneth Kopocis in an agency news release. Kopocis is the deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water.
The American Dental Association recommends measures such as amalgam separators and other practices to reduce the release of mercury from dental offices, and many local and state governments already require that steps such as these be taken.
“The rule would strengthen human health protection by requiring removals based on the use of a technology and practices that approximately 40 percent of dentists across the country already use,” Kopocis added in the release.
The EPA is currently accepting public input on the proposed rule, which is expected to be finalized in Septemeber 2015.