Discharge of mercury into waste water by dentists needs to be regulated and enforced, Shadow Environment Minister Michelle Lensink said today.
“Dentists are responsible for about 30-90% of the total mercury in sewage systems in SA where the dumping of waste dental amalgam into the Trade Waste Water is not regulated,’’ Ms Lensink said.
“Dental amalgam is being rinsed down the drain, or placed in general rubbish and disposed in council landfill or incinerators.
“Either way the mercury contained in the waste is released into the environment as land or air pollution.
“Virtually none of the amalgam waste is being recycled, yet it is the practical, commercially available, sustainable and cost effective solution to the problem.
“An amalgam separator unit capable of removing more than 95% of mercury containing dental amalgam particles from waste can be installed, operated, fully serviced and mercury sludge recycled for about $150 a month.
“One report suggests removing 1kg of mercury once it has entered the environment can cost as much as $51 million.
“There are often claims that the Trade Waste Water is within the EPA limits for mercury.
“However I don’t know of one responsible environmental management authority has ever conducted or commissioned tests on the solid mercury containing dental amalgam contaminant being discharged into Trade Waste Water.
“Currently 35 States in the USA have passed laws regulating the use and discharge of mercury into the environment, and in 2001 the New Zealand Dental Board adopted guidelines on disposing of dental amalgam waste.