High Mercury Emissions from Dental Clinics Despite Amalgam Separators

Mercury (Hg) as amalgam has been used as a dental filling material for more than 150 years. Thereby, dentists and their patients have been directly exposed to Hg, and the public and the environment indirectly exposed via Hg emissions from incinerators and Hg in waste water from households and dental clinics. Here we present actual Hg emissions via waste water from 12 dental clinics equipped with the same type of amalgam separator based on sedimentation. All waste water was collected for four consecutive working days, initially at ordinary operating conditions and a second time after a thorough revision and cleaning of the discharge system. The results indicate that mercury emissions from dental clinics can be reduced by an improved design of the discharge system, a sensible use of high pressure water cleaning, and regular maintenance, including replacement of amalgam separators and filters at certain intervals. The study also indicates that banning Hg in dentistry is the one long-term way to stop Hg emissions from dental amalgam.

Hylander LD, Lindvall A, Gahnberg L. Sci Total Environ. 2006 Jun 1;362(1-3):74-84. Epub 2005 Jul 28. 16054673 PubMed

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