Dentistry and the Environment

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency can be a great resource for questions on hazardous and infectious waste, pharmaceutical disposal, amalgam and wastewater requirements.


Management of Dental Amalgam Waste

Voluntary Dental Office Amalgam Separator Program

In an innovative partnership, the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) and the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) launched a program in 2001 to help keep mercury-containing dental materials out of wastewater.

Through the Voluntary Dental Office Amalgam Separator Program, the MDA has encouraged dentists to install special removal equipment into their clinic wastewater system. In return, for the foreseeable future, participating dentists within the Twin Cities metropolitan area will be exempt from regulatory action by MCES. The Metropolitan Council has regulatory authority over waste water generated by dental offices based in the Twin Cities that enters the public sewer system. Each county has authority over hazardous waste generated by a clinic that is disposed of in other manners.

This program gives dentists throughout the entire state a unique opportunity to demonstrate their concern for the environment, under their own initiative. The MDA has and will continue to devote time and resources to help dental offices install amalgam separators and dispose of amalgam properly.

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services Discharge Rules

While the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) operates the state-wide voluntary amalgam separator program, practices in the seven-county metropolitan area that place, repair, or remove amalgam must comply with the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services waste discharge rules. Under Section 307, all dental practices connected to public sewers in the seven-county metropolitan area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington counties) must operate and maintain an amalgam separator from the MPCA approved list. The rule does not apply to specialty dental practices that primarily conduct procedures related to orthodontia, periodontia, endodontia, and oral and maxillofacial surgery, radiology or pathology.

Environmental Protection Agency Rule

On June 14, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated a final rule (40 CFR Part 441) under the Clean Water Act to reduce discharges of mercury into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). The rule requires all affected dental practices to install and maintain amalgam separators and use at least two of the ADA Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste by July 14, 2020. To comply, affected dental practices must install an amalgam separator that meets the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standard for Amalgam Separators, ISO 11143. Practices within the seven-county metropolitan area that already comply with MCES Section 307 will also comply to the new EPA rule. The rule does not apply to specialty dental practices where the practice exclusively conducts procedures related to oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, or prosthodontics.

For more information on dental amalgam waste policy in Minnesota, please view this fact sheet.

Additional helpful information, including a list of approved separators, are available by request or you may download them by following the links below.

Approved Separators and Information on Program

Memorandum of Understanding between the MDA and the MPCA

Amalgam – Universal Waste

Recognition for Dental Providers Using Amalgam Removal Equipment

Managing Dental Amalgam Waste and Approved Separator List

Medication / Prescription Drugs

It is the responsibility of dental professionals to help protect the environment and the health of the public.  At the Minnesota Dental Association, we promote the safe prescribing, use and disposal of medications.

Green Dental Clinics

Like many others, dentists are becoming more environmentally conscious. Some clinics have taken their care for the environment to higher levels, which entail making changes to their practice, such as: using different dental supplies, cleaning products, or dental equipment; using renewable energy sources; or making structural changes to the clinic. Whether you want to make big changes or small ones, we have resources that can assist you in researching before implementation.

Would you like to learn ways that you can make your small business more sustainable and energy efficient and reduce your “carbon footprint”? The MPCA has organized the Minnesota Retiree Environmental Technical Assistance Program to help you with maximizing your business’s energy usage.

Learn More

Video Series: Management of Hazardous Waste

Below is a video series of the hazardous waste seminar co-sponsored by the MDA and MPCA on August 28, 2010. Find out when you need to be in compliance and learn why hazardous waste management is important in health care facilities, how the MDA is working to help small clinics comply with the rule now and in the future, and how to survive a hazardous waste inspection.