On Dec. 15, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final regulation regarding the handling of dental amalgam waste. The new federal rules will require most U.S. dental offices to use qualifying amalgam separators and comply with industry best management practices (BMPs) to reduce amalgam waste, including a restriction on discharging scrap amalgam into drains and limitations on certain oxidizing and acidic cleaners that might dissolve amalgam.
Dental offices will have three years to come into compliance with the newly issued EPA standards. The rule exempts certain dental specialties and dental offices that do not place or remove amalgam. Dental offices must file a one-time compliance report with their local wastewater treatment district, which may impose additional compliance standards. Dental offices that already have installed amalgam separators to meet local standards are permitted to continue to operate existing separators for their manufacturer-specified lifetime or 10 years (whichever comes first), as long as the office complies with the other rule requirements, including BMPs.
Stay tuned for a detailed analysis of the new rule in the winter 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association.