Dentists insist they dispose of mercury fillings safely

The Irish Dental Association has moved to assure the public that dentists are disposing of mercury safely although it says it doesn’t have statistics on compliance rates.

Dentists insist they dispose of mercury fillings safely

Its follows the revelation that one in six dental practices seeking HSE contracts in the last three years did not have equipment to filter out mercury from the dental amalgam used in fillings and stop it getting into the public water system. The Irish Examiner reported health officials feared this was a conservative estimate of the number of dentists practicing without amalgam separators given that those who sought public contracts had volunteered for inspection.

Association chief executive Fintan Hourihan said however, that while he had not surveyed his 1,800 members on the issue, he felt the concern was no longer warranted.

“I would have thought that the one-in-six figure would be considerably lower if the question was asked today.

“I know from people in the trade who supply amalgam separators that there has been a big uptake so I would expect that the overwhelming majority of dentists have separators in place.”

Mercury is highly toxic and Ireland is beginning the process of ratifying the Minamata Convention, committing to reduce the use and disposal of the chemical.

Yet the Department of the Environment has stalled on making it a legal requirement that dentists instal separators and has not acted on a Dental Inspectorate request for powers to make unannounced inspections of all dental practices.

However, Mr Hourihan said it was inferred by European waste directives that dentists should have amalgam separators and this was also the advice of the Council of European Dentists of which the association was a member. He said the Dental Council had issued infection control guidelines last year which also recommended the use of amalgam separators so there was a push from various sources for dentists to act accordingly.

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