Earlier this week, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plan to propose a rule requiring all dentists to separate mercury from all amalgam waste – something currently recommended by the EPA but only required in 12 states and a handful of cities. The measure aims to reduce the amount of mercury entering the water supply. According to the report at Dr. Bicuspid (registration required),
Approximately 50% of mercury entering local waste treatment plants comes from dental amalgam waste – about 3.7 tons of mercury annually, according to the EPA. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish, and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans, and the EPA is concerned that methylmercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.
Amalgam separators can separate out 95% of the mercury normally discharged to the local waste treatment plant, the agency said.
So hooray for that. We hope the rule is accepted. As Congressman Dan Burton is quoted as saying in the article, “There is no question that mercury should not be in the water supply, and we should do everything we can to get it out of there.”
That said, does something so toxic really have any business being placed in people’s mouths at all?
Meanwhile, here’s what Charles Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice had to say about the development:
EPA to Regulate Dental Mercury
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will regulate dental mercury! The move is a blow to the pro-mercury American Dental Association (ADA), which had lobbied for a “voluntary” approach to preventing dental mercury pollution – the ADA’s way of doing nothing to stop pro-amalgam dentists from dumping their mercury into our environment.
Mercury released by amalgam-using dentists pollutes our water, our air, and our land, resulting in devastating environmental health effects. As the EPA explains, once dental mercury enters the environment, “certain microorganisms can change elemental mercury into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury can damage children’s developing brains and nervous systems even before they are born.”
Giving credit where it is due, this move by EPA dismantles the agency’s “midnight deal” with the ADA. This “memorandum of understanding” put the ADA in charge of environmental safety in dental offices, permitting a predictably ineffective program of voluntary amalgam separators – a device for catching dental mercury before it goes into our water. It was like putting Colonel Sanders in charge of the chicken coop. Consumers for Dental Choice teamed with environmental groups to protest this outrageous agreement and demand regulation. Last spring, we helped organize a congressional hearing to address the failure of ADA’s voluntary approach and the ever-increasing problem of dental mercury pollution in our air (via crematoria especially).
In response, EPA will propose a rule to regulate dental mercury in 2011. We will have the opportunity to submit public comments before the rule is finalized in 2012. We must now roll up our sleeves and participate in the rule-making process, lest the ADA lawyers and lobbyists gain exemptions that eat up the rule.
We have taken this significant step forward in the fight against dental mercury thanks to three environmental heroes: (1) Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project who organized the environmentalists, then relentlessly demonstrated to EPA that the “voluntary” approach is a ruse; (2) Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who chaired the hearings that put EPA’s feet to the fire; and (3) Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA, who defied the ADA lobbyists and did the right thing. I’m sure Congressman Kucinich, email@example.com, and Administrator Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org, would enjoy hearing from you.
We applaud EPA for standing up to the American Dental Association, which still takes the preposterous position that “Dental amalgam has little effect on the environment…[and] this amount is not in the form [of mercury] found in fish.” The Food and Drug Administration would do well to follow EPA’s lead and ignore the ADA’s shady “scientific” claims.
30 September 2010
P.S. Don’t forget to click here to submit your comments about mercury fillings to FDA by the December 3 deadline!