WASHINGTON and BRUSSELS, Dec. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While the EU just endorsed a partial ban on amalgam, last Thursday the US EPA posted a rule to control mercury releases from dental clinics. The US rule is intended to reduce dental mercury releases into the nation's waters and the fish American's eat, according to Mercury Policy Project.
The rule agreed to in Europe bans amalgam in children under 15 and pregnant women starting in July 2018. It also requires countries to issue plans to reduce amalgam use by July 2019 and for the European Commission to determine by 2020 when amalgam should be banned completely.
US EPA's rule requires dental clinics to install amalgam separators—equipment to capture dental mercury before it goes down the drain—and implement "best management practices." The rule is expected to reduce the discharge of mercury by over 10 tons per year, according to EPA.
"Amalgam is the largest source of mercury in municipal wastewater, the largest consumer use and also the largest reservoir of mercury in use today," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "Amalgam separators are easy to install and maintain, and are a practical, affordable and available technology for capturing mercury."
Removing mercury at dental offices—where it is concentrated and easy to manage—is a common sense solution to prevent releases. EPA estimates that the average annual cost per dental office to do so is about 800 dollars.
Twelve states have mandatory programs to reduce mercury discharges, resulting in 40% of dentists having installed separators. Of the remaining 60% of dental clinics, EPA estimates that 20% are not subject to the rule as they don't use amalgam.
EPA streamlined the rule to minimize the administrative burden on dental offices, as well as on regulatory authorities responsible for oversight. The main requirement is for authorities to receive, review, and retain a one-time compliance report from dental offices.
Mercury gets into the environment through incineration, landfilling, or land application of sewage sludge and surface water discharge. Once released into the aquatic environment, certain bacteria can change dental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury that bioaccumulates in fish.
Both the US and EU actions are part of a broader effort to implement the amalgam reduction provisions of the Minamata Convention.
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SOURCE Mercury Policy Project