The EPA recently announced that the mercury you can safely put in your mouth (yeah, right) can no longer safely be put into public sewers. The day after the EPA’s ruling, European authorities approved a draft rule that would bar dentists from using mercury compounds to fill cavities in vulnerable populations (this translates to the primary teeth in children under 15 and pregnant or breastfeeding women- unless a specific medical need is cited).

The new rule, which requires dentists to contain their extremely toxic discharges by 2020, is part of an international treaty from 2013. The Minamata Convention, ratified by the United States and 34 other nations, calls for phasing out products that emit mercury vapor and disposing of the toxin more safely.

However, the USDA isn’t banning the use of mercury compounds because they are still considered the most “durable treatment for decayed teeth” (even though there is plenty of evidence about the health risks). And the rule doesn’t require water treatment plants to inspect dental offices to enforce compliance. So…it’s a new regulation that works on the honor code.


What will dental offices do?

The EPA expects that tens of thousands of U.S. dental offices will need to install “separators” to catch tiny pieces of mercury-tainted waste (they will also have to adopt best practices for its disposal). If they comply, it’s estimated that the separators will capture more than 99 percent of the waste mercury from implants of compounds and from drilling to remove older mercury fillings.

While it is believed that about half of all dentists have abandoned mercury fillings, the new requirement will still prevent an estimated 5.1 million tons of mercury from flowing each year into public sewer lines.

Michael Bender, director of the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project, has said that dental offices are responsible for the largest source of mercury in municipal wastewater. The separators, which the EPA estimates will cost about $800 a year to operate, he said, are a “practical, affordable and available technology for capturing mercury.”

One other danger of mercury in the water system is that when elemental mercury combines with certain bacteria it forms highly toxic methylmercury, which can enter the food chain through fish. In the 1950s in Japan, mercury-laden wastewater from a chemical plant contaminated fish in Minamata Bay (the convention is named for this event) and more than 1,700 people who ate the poisoned fish died.


From the article:

“European regulators have moved more aggressively to curb dentists’ use of mercury. On Friday, a committee representing the Council of the European Union endorsed a draft regulation to conform to the Minamata Convention that will be circulated to more than two dozen countries for ratification.

“Mercury pollution is found all around the globe, even in virgin lands very remote from pollution sources,” said Laszlo Solymos, the Slovak environment minister, who is president of the council. “This proves how dangerous and global this pollution is.”

Mercury is a deadly toxin- there is no debate about this. If inhaled in even minute amounts, it moves to the bloodstream and can accumulate in the kidneys, liver, and brain, where it damages the central nervous system. The toxin has been linked to memory loss, nerve damage, autoimmune diseases, vision problems, kidney failure, depression, autism and foggy thinking. Because of these links, recent research suggests it may also contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s nice to see that Europe understands the dangers of mercury and is willing to work at a faster pace toward a solution that would prevent more of this toxin from polluting our world. Now, if we could only get the old guard dentists in the US, the ones who think they are gods, to understand the dangers of mercury and its continued use, we might get somewhere.

Source: The Bellingham Herald