EPA rule on amalgam waste

Dental offices are the main source of mercury discharges to publicly owned treatment works. The new EPA rule on amalgam waste will help to reduce that amount - for cleaner water and a safe environment.

EPA rule on amalgam waste from dentistry has become effective

From July 14th, 2017, dental offices across the United States that place or remove amalgam have to install an amalgam separator as well as follow two best management practices recommended by the ADA. That is the essence of the new EPA rule on amalgam waste from dentistry, also known as Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Dental Category. Even those dental offices who are located in a previously mandated area are subject to the EPA rule and should check if they are still compliant, while most other dental offices will have to take action now in order to become compliant.

What do I have to do to be compliant?

All dental offices which place or remove amalgam have to install an ISO 11143 certified amalgam separator like the amalsed Silver. It can be easily installed and maintained. The EPA rule also requires dental dischargers to adopt two best management practices.

One of them prohibits the discharge of waste (scrap) amalgam from chairside traps, screens, vacuum pump filters, dental tools, or collection devices into any drain. Our UN certified Silver Service amalgam waste containers offer a safe and compliant way of storing and shipping your amalgam waste to be recycled by an authorized supplier. If you are looking for a one-stop shop solution for full compliance, check out our Silver Service.

The second best practice recommended by the ADA prohibits the use of line cleaners that may lead to the dissolution of solid mercury when cleaning chairside traps and vacuum lines. If oxidizing cleaners are used to clean dental unit water lines, chairside traps, or vacuum lines that lead to an amalgam separator, the line cleaners may solubilize any mercury that the separator has captured, resulting in increased mercury discharges. The best management practice recommended by the ADA ensures the efficiency of the amalgam separator by prohibiting the use of oxidizing line cleaners that have a pH lower than 6 or greater than 8.


According to the EPA, dental clinics are the main source of mercury discharges to publicly owned treatment works. The EPA estimates that about 103,000 dental offices use or remove amalgam in the United States. Almost all of these send their wastewater to POTWs. In other words, dentists discharge approximately 5.1 tons of mercury each year to POTWs!

Most of this mercury is subsequently released into the environment. Mercury-containing amalgam wastes may find their way into the environment when new fillings are placed or old mercury-containing fillings are removed and waste amalgam materials that are flushed into chairside drains enter the wastewater stream.

Expected positive results of the new EPA rule on amalgam waste

According to the EPA, removing mercury when it is in a concentrated and easy to manage form in dental amalgam, before it becomes diluted and difficult and costly to remove, is a common sense step to prevent mercury from being released into the environment where it can become a hazard to humans. It is expected that compliance with this rule will reduce the discharge of mercury to POTWs by 5.1 tons annually as well as 5.3 tons of other metals found in dental amalgam waste.

That means, if every dental office follows the new rule, the discharge of mercury to POTWs is expected to be reduced to a negligible level.

When do I have to be compliant?

All new dental offices have to comply with the EPA rule on amalgam waste immediately, starting from July 14th, 2017. All existing dental offices which place or remove amalgam have been granted a three-year transition period to install an amalgam separator and recycle their amalgam waste. They will have to comply from July 14th, 2020. However, we recommend you to act now, so you will already be compliant when the transition period is over.

What happens with my waste at medentex?

medentex is a globally operating company headquartered in Bielefeld, Germany, specializing in the professional and compliant disposal and recycling of dental waste. We are officially authorized to collect and transport dental waste across country borders. All amalgam waste that we collect in the US is shipped to our facilities in Germany, where we process the waste and separate the metals from the mercury. All raw materials are then re-used again to close the cycle and protect resources - for sustainable, responsible manufacturing.

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