Dental & Medical

Could dentists be Australia’s biggest mercury polluters?

Could dentists be Australia’s biggest mercury polluters?

Last year a major water utility was outed as Australia’s biggest dumper of mercury.

In the course of one year it discharged 40kg of mercury waste into the sea from its outfall pipes at Manly and Malabar in New South Wales.

Earlier, it had been discovered that sharks caught off the NSW coast contained high levels of mercury, including some species that are often eaten as fish and chips.

While it may not be possible to prove that the major water utility’s discharges are responsible for the high level of mercury in sharks, there is a clear likelihood of a link between the two.

And while there are a number of potential sources of mercury going into wastewater, the water utility believes waste from dental facilities and personal dental fillings are among the culprits.

How significant are dental practices likely to be as a source of this mercury? It’s estimated that an average dental surgery generates half a kilogram of mercury waste each year.

Dentists to the rescue

Clearly, dentists are on the front line when it comes to preventing a large amount of mercury pollution. And, as health professionals, they should all be concerned about the wider health implications of the way in which they manage their waste.

Good dental health shouldn’t lead to increased mercury exposure from fish, particularly when safe, simple and affordable solutions to dental mercury waste disposal are available.

It isn’t enough to simply install amalgam separators into the plumbing system. Dentists also need to ensure that their amalgam traps are properly maintained and that the dental amalgam goes to a responsible and appropriately licenced company for safe recycling.

Amalgam separators (pictured) can be easily attached to dental chairs to capture waste mercury, keeping it out of waterways.

Amalgam separators (pictured) can be easily attached to dental chairs to capture waste mercury, keeping it out of waterways.

Make sure your dentist is doing the right thing

While it may be dentists who need to take action on dental mercury waste pollution, patients have a role to play too.

Next time you visit your dentist, ask if they recycle all of their dental amalgam waste. If not, suggest they contact Ecocycle so they can safely and responsibly dispose of and recycle mercury–containing waste.

Dentists, here’s how you can do your part

Do you run a dental practice or know of one that could benefit from a mercury recycling scheme?

Together, we can make a real impact on Australia’s mercury pollution problem. Contact Ecocycle by calling 1300 32 62 92 and speaking with a dental consultant or fill in the form below.


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