The EPA has obviously reached beyond its intended mandate to regulate our environment. Causing a serious slow down to our economy. The problem with taking this broad hatchet to the EPA is the unintended harm to critical new regulations.
We sincerely do need the proposed EPA regulation made effective to stop dentists throwing mercury down their drains.
Approximately 40% of mercury found in city's local waterways comes from local dental offices.
The EPA estimates that 31.4 tons of mercury is generated by dental restorations and dental extractions each year. A portion of this is captured by dental offices, leaving approximately 8.8 tons on metals, 4.4 tons being mercury, to be discharged down the drain each year.
The ADA, in a recent press statement said, "the EPA's Federal Regulation represents a fair and reasonable approach to the management of dental amalgam waste. Being preferable to a patchwork of rules and regulations across various states and localities."
This regulation, sadly caught up in the wrong assumption that all regulation is bad, could ensure healthy water, and stimulate a small business segment at the same time.
We all suffer to some extent with an "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome. It may have been the normalization of kitchen waste disposal units, not standard in other developed countries, that created a mind set that our home drain was something we could use as a personal potty. The problem being that anything we throw down the drain, does not disappear. It is only relocated and becomes the source of what our local waste water treatment plant must process. And that we will pay for in our local rates bill.
Dental offices are not considered Industrial users. As such they have been able to use their public drains to dispose of their waste, including amalgam mercury.
The average amalgam filling weighs 800mg and contains 50% mercury. It is estimated that 78% of American adults have dental fillings. Assuming 200 million American adults, this works out to 156 million adults with dental fillings. If the average adult has four amalgam mercury fillings, we get 1.6 grams of mercury per person making a total issue 249.6 tons of mercury dust (the filling are drilled out) that will enter our local water systems. This is a big big problem!
The first State to regulate the disposal of dental mercury in local waterways (August 2003) was Washington. This public graph by Kings County clearly shows the reduction of mercury received by their waste water treatment plants after the regulation was implemented. Today there are 13 states and 19 districts that have passed amalgam regulations. But that leaves an estimated 80,000 dental offices still flushing removed amalgam mercury down the drain.
Call to action: The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed suit against the EPA for failing to follow its published processes. In particular suspending a regulation that had followed the full regulatory approval process. But there are two steps all responsible dentists can take today:
In Dec 2008, the EPA signed a MOU with the ADA and NACWA to monitor the effectiveness of the the Voluntary Dental Amalgam Discharge Reduction Program implemented in 2004. The results: per independent sources: 4% compliance.
I have sympathy for dental offices who do not use amalgam mercury fillings for patient restorations being forced to pay for the sins of their ancestors. But the cost of capture is less than the income from a single crown. What is at stake is soluable mercury in our local swimming holes and mercury in our organic vegetables. Which we all eat. So I am at a complete loss.
We are fed up with excessive regulations. No one likes to be forced into government climate control. Or some higher moral standard. If there was ever a time to self regulate, on something obvious like mercury, this must be it?