What is the environmental impact of amalgam tooth fillings?

In 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that mercury contained in dental amalgam is the greatest source of mercury vapor in nonindustrialized settings, exposing the concerned population to mercury levels significantly exceeding those set for food and for air. WHO went on to state that mercury contained in dental amalgam and in laboratory and medical devices accounts for about 53% of total mercury emissions, and about one-third of the mercury in the sewage system comes from dental amalgam flushed down the drain.

The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) studied seven major wastewater treatment plants and found that dental uses were "by far" the greatest contributors of mercury load, on average contributing 40%, over three times the next greatest contributor.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also declared that dental amalgam is a major source of mercury contamination in wastewater.
Dentists and their families are part of communities across the country and protecting the environment is just as important to them as it is to everyone.

Just as people increasingly are recycling at home, the American Dental Association encourages recycling in the dental office. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that dentistry accounts for less than 1 percent of mercury released to the environment. To manage amalgam waste properly, the ADA developed step-by-step recycling guidelines for dental offices which results in up to 99 percent of amalgam waste captured and recycled to prevent release to the environment.

In its proposed treaty to limit the amount of mercury in the environment, the United Nations Environment Program stated in 2013 that the burning of coal is the largest single manmade source of mercury in the environment. The ADA is gratified that the UNEP treaty conditions pertaining to dental amalgam protect this important treatment option without restrictions for patients while balancing the need to protect the environment. The ADA believes dental amalgam is vital for people throughout the world to continue to have access to a safe, durable, affordable treatment for tooth decay.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.