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Mercury in dental fillings could be getting into water supply, harming environment

An ingredient used in dental fillings could be harming our environment!

Dental amalgam contains mercury and officials say possible high levels of it are getting into our water supplies.

Sixteen years ago, Amanda Just discovered what was really going on inside her mouth.

“I felt upset for other people that might be having a similar situation, that didn’t know that there was mercury in their mouth,” she said.

That’s right: mercury.

Those silver fillings she’s had since she was 13 include the metal and millions of Americans have them.

Silver fillings containing mercury. (Courtesy of Michael Rehme DDS)

“I got very, very sick after and I never associated it with being related to anything dental,” Just said.

Just got her fillings removed and now she committed her career to the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, which is leading the fight to eliminate mercury from all dental work…and that’s not all.

“The EPA said the dental offices were the largest source of mercury discharges to publicly owned treatment works,” Amanda said.

Now, the City of Fort Myers is proposing an ordinance to include management of mercury amalgam—which also includes silver, tin and copper—at dental offices.

“If we want to protect our environment and people’s health then it’s a very important thing to do,” said Dr. Mark Corke, D.D.S. with Laser Dentistry.

He now uses what’s called an amalgam separator to make sure the mercury does not get released into the wastewater released into our environment.

“I became aware of how dangerous it was and for the environment and we were discharging it into the waste stream and I felt that it was time to get an amalgam separator just to make sure we weren’t contributing to that,” he said.

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered all dental practices to have amalgam separators in place by July 2020.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection sent us the following statement on the issue:

Although dental amalgam waste can be a potential source of mercury at sewage treatment plants, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has safeguards in place that protect water quality and public health and safety. In 2018, Florida adopted Florida Administrative Code 62-625.110 following the United States Environmental Protection Agency releasing a new rule (40 CFR Part 441) aimed at reducing discharges of mercury from dental offices into domestic wastewater treatment facilities.

The Department works closely with dental offices to provide scrap amalgam best management practices to ensure that mercury is not released into the environment or affects public health. By keeping scrap amalgam separate from other waste, it can be reclaimed and recycled. Recycling is done by qualified mercury reclamation companies through a distillation process. The mercury is then reused in new products, including dental amalgam.

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
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