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Managing Dental Amalgam Wastes

One of the basic issues facing the dental sector is how to handle or dispose of dental amalgam wastes. The sector is largely unaware of its contribution to mercury pollution and in effect, does more harm to the environment and surrounding communities.

With the Minamata Convention and ongoing efforts to reduce mercury pollution, the Philippine dental sector must step up and be mindful of the wastes it generates.

First, remember that whether you are a dentist, a dental aide, or a dental hygienist, all dental health workers are vulnerable to mercury exposure. If your office continues to apply dental amalgam, here are several tips to minimize risks:

TRAINING AND EDUCATION

Get information and training on mercury exposure and safety procedures.

Train staff on proper amalgam handling.

USE, STORAGE, and DISPOSAL

Only use precapsulated amalgam fillings and recycle scrap/excess amalgam as much as possible.

Avoid direct contact with amalgam and always use protective clothing. Wear masks and gloves specifically designed to protect against mercury.

Label all bottles and containers properly. Ensure that amalgam fillings are stored in plastic containers with tight fitting lids and are stored in stable/even surfaces to avoid spills.

Do not use vacuum cleaners as it volatizes mercury.

Do not throw amalgam scraps (contact and non-contact) and spent capsules with ordinary wastes, collect amalgam wastes in a grey bag,

Use side-traps, vacuums and install an amalgam separator. It is recommended that separators must be periodically checked to maintain optimum performance.

Clean-up mercury spills immediately.

Put together an emergency mercury-spill clean-up kit (instructions and tools are listed below)

INFRASTRACTURE

Designate an area in the clinic for amalgam storage and preparation. Keep this area safe and far away from heat sources.

Avoid carpets and instead, opt for vinyl flooring with minimal joints.

Ensure that there is proper ventilation in the work area.

Finally, there are laws in place that regulate the use of dangerous chemicals such as mercury. And based on the recommendations of IAOMT-Philippines, The Chemical Control Order (CCO) of the DENR is currently being amended to include the use and proper storage and disposal of dental amalgam fillings.