Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mandatory Amalgam Separators Coming to California?

Amalgam Separator

My bet is yes, especially with the anti-amalgamists leading the charge and Jerry Brown as Governor.
A group of California dental professionals is asking California Gov. Jerry Brown to require dental facilities to install amalgam separators.

The group, Californians for Green Dentistry, includes 18 dentists and three hygienists. On April 18 the group is sending a letter to Gov. Brown asking him to have California's Environmental Protection Agency require all general dental offices and clinics to install amalgam separators, "the most basic step in reducing dental mercury pollution."

Water customers in California must pay to remove mercury from wastewater, which also poses an environmental health risk because it contaminates fish and can cause neurological problems in children and fetuses, the group noted.

Voluntary usage of amalgam separators by dentists is low, but many California cities now require them, the group said.
First, the Californians for Green Dentistry is a front group from the same ol' anti-amalgam folks that have been pushing their nonsense for decades. Their Facebook page is here which then leads you to one of their real websites here.

Now, I haven't used amalgam for restorations in many years. My patients desired tooth colored restorations and the headache of amalgam hygiene was a pain in the ass. However, there are millions of amalgam restorations that are removed each year and the waste goes up and out into the water supply.

Do individual dentists need in-office amalgam separators to filter out the mercury/amalgam waste before it goes to municipal water treatment facilities?

The answer is probably yes but it is expensive and is it really needed? It can be debated.
A mandatory amalgam separator program would be an administrative burden and increase the cost of dental care, as well as the cost of regulating dentistry, he said.

The overall cost to a dentist to install an amalgam separator includes buying the separator, installing it, and annual operation and maintenance fees, Walsh explained. The capital cost and installation are approximately $1,200, and the annual cost of owning and operating an amalgam separator is around $770.

A voluntary program is more appropriate for attaining mercury reduction from a professional group like dentists than a "command-and-control" approach, he added.

"The ADA believes that the issue of installation should be decided on a case-by-case basis based on site-specific conditions," Walsh said.

The EPA also favors a voluntary program when it comes to small businesses, he added.

"If it is not effective, the government can always make it mandatory," Walsh told DrBicuspid.com.
I doubt the new GOP controlled House would ever pass this mandate on a federal basis. The cost benefit is just not there. But, knowing the politics of California, the Democrat control of the Legislature and the Left-leanings of California Governor Jerry Brown, if I were a California dentist I would be placing some money aside for the new mandate.

And, yes, it will push up the cost of dentistry because the cost will be passed along to patients.

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