Amalgam separators are simple, non-mechanical devices that sit within the drainage systems of dental practices. As their name implies, the purpose of an amalgam separator is to trap waste dental amalgam and separate it from wastewater that can then be safely discharged to the sewers.
With mercury contamination a big enough problem to give rise to a United Nations convention, amalgam separators play a critical role in reducing mercury pollution.
While there are dental clinics already fitted with amalgam separators, a large proportion of Australian dental practices remain without these front-line warriors in the war on environmental mercury contamination.
In the US, dental practices are the largest single source of the mercury that turns up in water treatment plants, so not surprisingly, plans are afoot to encourage all dental practices to install amalgam separators. It’s an initiative that should be replicated in Australia.
However, fitting an amalgam separator is only half the story. The other half is maintenance.
Amalgam separators do fill up and lose their effectiveness, and worst of all, some dental practices simply empty their separators into their general waste.
Not only is this defeating the whole purpose of having amalgam separators, it represents a health hazard to the practice staff and, potentially, patients.