Amalgam Waste. How to Dispose of Amalgam Waste. In the dental world, amalgam is the word used to describe a mixture of metals that is commonly used in dental fillings. These are primarily made up of mercury, copper, and zinc with other trace amounts of other metals. Furthermore, it’s not just that amalgam is a waste product. Rather, hazardous amalgam waste needs special handling to ensure it does not pollute the environment or contaminate water supplies. Fortunately, though, disposing of mercury-containing amalgam waste isn’t difficult if you know what you need to do. This article covers everything from how much amalgam waste your practice generates through to information about the laws regulating its disposal in your area.
Biohazardous waste, such as contaminated bandages, infectious blood and blood-contaminated materials, and pathological waste, are regulated by various state departments usually the state level EPA and the Health Department. There are some federal departments that also have oversight like the Department of Transportation (DOT) and OSHA. Non-Biohazardous Waste would include anything but the following. Biohazardous waste generally includes the following categories:
Sharps, including but not limited to hypodermic needles, blades, and slides.
Dry biohazardous waste
Contaminated cultures, petri dishes, and other culture flasks
Wastes from bacteria, viruses, spores, or live and attenuated vaccines
Waste contaminated with excretion, exudates, or secretions from infectious humans or animals
Paper towels, Kim wipes, bench paper, or any other items contaminated with biohazard materials
Liquid biohazardous waste
Human or animal blood
Human or animal blood elements
Human or animal bodily fluids or semi-liquid materials
Human anatomical specimens
Animal carcasses and body parts if exposed to biohazardous materials
The reason why amalgam waste maybe considered biohazardous is because it has been in contact with fluids like blood or tissue from oral procedures. In this case the amalgam must be disinfected prior to segregating or shipping, before recycling this material it must be free of any biohazards. According to the CDC Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings.
“(403,405). Extracted teeth containing amalgam restorations should not be heat-sterilized because of the potential health hazard from mercury vaporization and exposure. If extracted teeth containing amalgam restorations are to be used, immersion in 10% formalin solution for 2 weeks should be effective in disinfecting both the internal and external structures of the teeth (403). If using formalin, manufacturer MSDS should be reviewed for occupational safety and health concerns and to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations.”
The amount of amalgam waste generated by your practice will depend on several different factors. The number of teeth treated in a typical day will likely have the biggest impact on the overall amount of waste generated. However, factors such as the type of fillings used in your practice (i.e., gold crowns versus amalgam fillings) could also have an impact. Finally, the number of times a filling is used before it is replaced will likely have an impact. For example, if a single filling is used for 10 years, that could potentially lead to 10 times the waste as a single filling used for one year.
Although amalgam remains an effective and inexpensive restorative option, environmental concerns regarding mercury have fueled legislative and regulatory actions. Dental amalgam contains mercury. The amount of mercury in dental amalgam varies but is generally 50%, with the remaining 50% being a mixture of other metals. However, the FDA did a study, and most of the evidence shows exposure to mercury from dental amalgam does not lead to negative health effects in the general population.
That said, according to the FDA website. Exposure to mercury may pose a greater health risk in the groups of people listed below, who may be more susceptible to potential adverse effects generally associated with mercury.
In the United States, state and federal environmental laws regulate the handling of hazardous materials. Amalgam waste is considered hazardous because of its mercury and silver compounds, both are listed as a hazardous waste due to its level of toxicity and therefore must be treated as such.
Some materials are not considered hazardous by regulations, even though they may be biohazardous in nature. For example, gauze used in dental procedures that are soaked in blood are biohazardous, but it is not considered a hazardous material by environmental regulations. Wastes such as paper products, bandages, sharps, and latex gloves are not regulated as hazardous materials. However, sharps are always biohazardous waste and other waste if contaminated to the point of when compressed will drip blood or if dried blood would flake off when handled, it should still be treated as biohazardous wastes.
Dental practices generally create hazardous and biohazards materials which making using a licensed medical waste disposal facility ideal. These facilities have the infrastructure and expertise to treat and dispose of the waste safely and legally.
Your practice deserves a company that understands the waste removal requirements of dental offices. Bio-MED has worked with dentists across the Midwest for three decades, so we understand what it takes to satisfy your sharps, amalgam waste, and infectious material containment needs.
Amalgam waste is common waste for dental offices as a product of dental fillings. The excess waste contains Mercury which is a harmful compound to the environment and can effect water ways and public sewage if not disposed of properly. The EPA and ADA implemented strict regulations in regard to how amalgam waste is disposed of. The separators help capture the amalgam waste preventing it from washing into the plumbing to mitigate the amount of mercury entering our sewage and ecosystems.
Bio-MED is familiar with all of the regulations and proper ways to dispose of amalgam waste. Ensure your dental office is doing so responsibly by contacting Bio-MED Medical Waste today!
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