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Guide for Dentists for Managing Mercury and Amalgam Wastes

Guide for Dentists for Managing Mercury and Amalgam Wastes

It's the Law in New York State

On September 17, 2002 New York State enacted Chapter 506, Laws of 2002. This law added a new section 27-0926 to the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), "Use and recycling of elemental mercury and dental amalgam by dentists." The law bans the use of non-encapsulated elemental mercury in dental offices and requires dentists to recycle any mercury or dental amalgam waste generated in their offices in accordance with regulations established by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The adoption of ECL 27-0926 and the authorization to develop regulatory standards for dentists places New York State with a growing number of local and state governments, as well as Canada and Western Europe, which have enacted successful regulations for dental offices to curtail the release of mercury. Dentists are required to comply with the law starting March 16, 2003. DEC has adopted 6 NYCRR Part 374-4, effective May 12, 2006, this will assist dentists with implementation.

Health Advisories

Mercury is a persistent, bioaccumulative toxin that can cause damage to the human brain and nervous system. It is especially harmful to a developing human child. Significant mercury contamination of the environment has already occurred over the years from the various sources of mercury. Consequently, there are numerous health advisories for fish consumption throughout New York State, due to mercury contamination.

In the past, dental offices have remained largely unmonitored for mercury disposal. Extracted amalgam materials are often rinsed down the drain (usually to a municipal wastewater system or septic system), deposited in biomedical waste containers destined for waste incineration, or placed in trash disposed of in a municipal waste landfill or incinerator. Some recent studies have suggested that a large contributor of mercury to municipal wastewater is dental offices.

Most dentists have already switched to the use of pre-encapsulated mercury instead of elemental mercury when mixing amalgam. Dental offices must now ensure, however, that any bulk elemental mercury they posses, and any pre-encapsulated capsule waste and amalgam waste they generate, be properly managed and recycled.

Waste management procedures, equipment, and collection businesses that can remove most of the mercury generated in dental offices for recycling already exist; however, their use in New York State has previously been voluntary. Dental offices should utilize the technology and management options necessary to reduce the use and release of this toxin into the environment.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Bureau of Waste Reduction & Recycling at (518) 402-8706 or by e-mail at: recycling@dec.ny.gov