In response to a new report that blasts the dental industry for failing to protect the public from mercury pollution, the American Dental Association has issued a statement that they have developed a "plan that addresses amalgam in dental wastewater," but maintains that mercury is not an environmental problem.
"The ADA response has fallen far short of what it will take to fix the nation's dental mercury pollution problem," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project.
Bender is the author of the report, "Dentist the Menace: The Uncontrolled Release of Dental Mercury," co-released with Health Care Without Harm on June 5. The report reveals that dentists are now the third-largest users of mercury in the U.S. and are the single largest polluter of mercury to the nation's wastewater treatment plants.
The report also found that, for the most part, voluntary approaches now advocated by ADA and others have consistently failed to keep dental mercury out of the environment. The report charges ADA with working vigorously to impede regulations that would protect the public.
"We call on ADA, and on dentists everywhere, to support efforts to prevent waste mercury pollution and to follow our report recommendations," Bender said. The report recommends that dentists:
-- adhere to stringent best management practices;
-- install amalgam separators to reduce mercury discharge by 95 percent or more;
-- clean and replace mercury-laden pipes and plumbing fixtures;
-- manage quantities of excess elemental mercury properly; and
-- submit annual reports on dental mercury reduction initiatives, including the quantities of mercury used and recycled.
"Many other healthcare institutions like hospitals are actively phasing out mercury products," said Davis Baltz, California coordinator for Health Care Without Harm. "We encourage ADA and its members to follow the health care credo of 'first do no harm' by adopting a precautionary approach for managing waste amalgam, rather than denying or debating that there is a problem."
Countering ADA's inference that dental mercury is not an environmental problem, Bender cited recent findings of the Naval Dental Research Institute, which concluded that methylation of dental mercury can take place. (see http://www.dentalmercury.com/dentalmercury/Publications/publications_14.html.)
A copy of the report is available at