Originally published October 18 2014
Proposed EPA rule would require dentists to prevent mercury, toxic metals from going down the drain
by Julie Wilson staff writer
(NaturalNews) Introduced by French dentists who immigrated to the U.S. in 1833, the use of amalgam as a dental restoration material became popular as blacksmiths, barbers and tradesman easily made it from the fillings of silver coins and other metals. Adding liquid mercury helped to amalgamate the mixture of metals, resulting in a plug soft enough to apply to a decaying tooth.
Aware of the dangers of mercury, even in the 1800s, a group of medical dentists called the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS,) vouched not to use amalgams, however, that group later disappeared and was replaced by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Dental amalgam's inexpensive and easy to use nature was irresistible to the ADA, which began using the material and assuring its safety despite widespread controversy.
Scientists in the late 1900s began making connections between amalgams and tongue ulcers, chronic gastritis, eczema, chronic rheumatism and other infections involving the nose and throat.
Amalgams are 50 percent mercury along with a combination of silver, tin and copper, according to Doctoroz.com.
Mercury-containing amalgams contaminating public water supply systems
Today, the ADA still regards dental amalgams as "one of the safest, most durable and least expensive materials used to fill a cavity."
Aside from the fact that mercury fillings definitely aren't the safest, amalgams are also posing a threat to people by entering the public's water supply system.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too much mercury-containing dental waste is "making its way down the drain and eventually into the nation's waters."
To curb the problem, the EPA has proposed changes to the Clean Water Act standards, which would require dentists to use devices that remove mercury and other toxins before going down the drain, according to a report by the Central Valley Business Times.
"This proposed rule would cut mercury and toxic metal discharges to public wastewater systems by at least 8.8 tons a year nationwide," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
"Bay Area communities already require dentists to use amalgam capture devices and have seen their mercury pollution levels drop nearly 75 percent. Now the rest of California and the nation will see these same benefits."
Reports say about half of the mercury that enters public water systems originates from dental pollution
Public water systems contaminated by mercury leads to environmental pollution, which can be transformed into methylmercury, a form of mercury that's incredibly toxic to humans, impairing brain and nervous system development and function.
When left in the environment, mercury builds up in the tissue of fish, shellfish and other fish-eating animals, which can infect humans if eaten.
Amalgam separators work effectively in removing toxic waste before its disposal. The devices remove about 90 to 95 percent of toxins. EPA estimates that about 120,000 dental offices in the U.S. use or dispose of amalgam fillings that contain mercury, almost all of which enter the local wastewater treatment plant, reported Lake County News.
However, knowledge regarding the dangers of mercury is widespread, prompting many cities and states to enact mercury pollution control programs, which include encouraging dentists to use amalgam separators.
If the EPA's proposal is implemented, up to 60,000 dental offices nationwide will be required to install separators, reports say, which could cost an upwards of $44 to $49 million.
The agency's recent decision is intended to accommodate the goals of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty designed to protect human health and environment.
Public comments on the proposal will be accepted over the next 60 days by the EPA, expecting to finalize the rule by this time next year.
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