Dental amalgam is a silver-coloured material used to fill cavaties in teeth. It is made of liquid mercury and a powder containing silver, tin, copper, zinc, and other metals.
Dental amalgam waste needs to be properly managed to avoid the release of mercury into the environment. Mercury is a toxic, persistent, 'bioaccumulative' substance. Bioaccumulative substances 'build up' or concentrate in organisms (people, fish, animals, etc.). In water, dental amalgam changes into a highly toxic form (methylmercury), which accumulates in fish and other aquatic animal life. When this happens, it can damage the central nervous and reproductive systems.
Prince Edward Island, along with other provinces and territories in Canada, is working to reduce the release of mercury from dental amalgams. A Canada-wide Standard on Mercury for Dental Amalgam Wastes was developed in 2001. It's objective was to reduce, by 95% by 2005, the amount of amalgam waste released into the environment by Canadian dental offices. This was to be achieved by using dental amalgam separators that catch and hold waste. The waste can then be collected and disposed of properly.
Did We Meet the Goal?
In 2005, a survey of Prince Edward Island dental clinics showed that 95% of dentists had either purchased or installed a dental amalgam separator.
For additional information, contact the:
Environment Division (902) 368-5024