Amalgam Waste Management

by Janice Goodman, DDS

In July 2000, a Toronto bylaw was passed setting standards on the limit of mercury allowed into the drain exiting a dental office. The bylaw was put together by a number of engineers, city staff and politicians. They were partly advised by a number of individuals who sold amalgam-separating equipment. It is my understanding by speaking with Martin Shaw, senior engineer for the City of Toronto (waste management), that no dentists were involved in planning the bylaw. The Ontario Dental Association was invited to the discussions and was represented by a non-dentist, Linda Samek, director of professional affairs. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons was apparently also invited, but declined involvement for now.

The issue of amalgam separation and hazardous waste control is very much the responsibility of the dental community. Similar but more lenient bylaws already exist in Victoria and Montreal. I have met with Mr. Shaw and have found him to be very receptive and interested in understanding dentists’ concerns. He has demonstrated flexibility with regard to the three requirements in the bylaw.

The original Toronto bylaw may be viewed on the Internet at wpc/nbylaw.

Mr. Shaw has also met with Dr. Peter Bastien, president of the Ontario Academy of General Dentistry and made a presentation at the Winter Clinic.

I should point out that the penalty for not complying with the bylaw is stiff ($10,000-$20,000) and the deadline for compliance is December 31, 2001. The costs incurred to fully comply with the bylaw as it now exists are quite hefty and vary depending on your supplier. The ODA has provided a list of only three suppliers (of amalgam waste recyclers) to their members, but I found more than 10 in a five-minute search! At least 3,000 dental offices across Canada are being required to purchase amalgam separator units for their suction machines and the number will grow as other municipalities jump on the bandwagon. With so many dentists affected, why don’t we go to tender and get the best value we can? The Ontario Academy of General Dentistry did arrange a $300 discount for their members if they sign up with one particular company prior to April 17, 2001 (a good start, Dr. Bastien).

Oral Health believes that it is necessary for dentists across Canada to be involved in writing these bylaws. This journal will continue to cover this issue in-depth (so we can all better understand these recent developments). It is essential that many opinions and suggestions be voiced. Send your comments to Oral Health, 1450 Don Mills Rd., Don Mills, ON M3B 2X7.

Canadian dentists have always served and protected their populations and it is in everyone’s best interest to help establish high standards for dental waste management by adding our knowledge, opinions and clout to those of the law-makers.OH

Dr. Janice Goodman is the General Dentistry Editorial Board member of Oral Health.