Blog: What are Amalgam Separators & What States are Regulated now

October 26, 2017

Amalgam removal products have been making headlines a lot lately due to the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement on July 14, 2017 requiring all dental practices in the 50 states to install a certified amalgam separator in their dental practices.

But, why?

It is estimated that the disposal of dental amalgam waste contributes to roughly 50% of the mercury that enters wastewater treatment facilities.

 

Many patients do not know about amalgam separators and many dentists also do not want to install them due to several reasons. One of the reasons that dental practices do not want to purchase separators is because of the cost of the products and the maintenance involved in keeping them clean, and how to remove the dental mercury safely to be in compliance. This is in addition to the perceived workflow issues with installation.

The good news is that these issues can be addressed.

Amalgam separators are collectors that are installed before the vacuum lines at the dentist office, which are used to help with the disposal of dental amalgam waste from old mercury based tooth fillings.

When researching an amalgam separator, consider one that also helps in the recycling of the waste when it’s time to change out the collection container. The collection container does not separate the mercury from the rest of material as this process must be done at the recycling facility, where the separators remove about 99% of the mercury from the waste.

Contrary to popular belief, amalgam separators are easy to install while some models can be installed in a few hours and require minimal yearly maintenance. The only thing that will have to be done is replace the container once it is full. The collection container will typically need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months, depending on the number of chairs that feed into the system, the size of the practice and the number of patients having their old mercury based fillings removed.

Which States Have Mandatory Regulations?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends amalgam separators in every practice, in all states to help the environment rid itself of harmful mercury entering the water. Prior to July 14, 2017, the following states already had a mandate in place requiring the use of an amalgam separator in the dental practice.

  • Connecticut
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Additionally, many other localities within California, Colorado, Ohio, and Wisconsin have similar mandatory dental amalgam reduction pretreatment programs each requiring the use of amalgam separators and some form of best management practices as well.   However, since July 14, 2017, all 50 states are now required to use an amalgam separator in their practice.  The EPA “Dental Rule” requires new practices to install an amalgam separator within 90 days; existing dental practices have until July 14, 2020 to install; and practices that already have an amalgam separator installed have until July 14, 2027 to install an ISO 11143:2008 certified amalgam separator.