Emissions of mercury from dental clinics has declined since amalgam was banned as dental filling material, but the remaining emissions are not negligible.
The use of dental amalgam is banned in Sweden since 2009, and no exceptions have been allowed since 2018. The EU’s provisions from 2018 do not imply any change to the more comprehensive Swedish ban. It is estimated that there is still about 15 tonnes of mercury in the teeth of the Swedish population. Removal of old amalgam fillings will be made many years to come. The separators collect most of the amalgam, but the efficiency depends on the maintenance. The smallest particles are not collected by the separators.
There is a major risk that mercury has accumulated in the drain pipes of dental care facilities, particularly where dental care has been conducted prior to the demand for amalgam separators and where old separators with poor function have been used. Mercury emissions from drain pipes to sewers and wastewater remain a hazard. The quantity of mercury contained in people´s mouths in the EU Member States has been estimated to over 1000 tonnes. Approximately 25 percent of dental care facilities within the EU lack amalgam separators according to a study. (Source: Study on the potential for reducing mercury pollution from dental amalgam and batteries”, BIO Intelligence Service, European Commission, 2012).
The toxicity of mercury depends on the chemical state of the element. When in the shape of amalgam, the mercury is bound firmly and as a dental filling it has proven well suited for many. The most hazardous state of mercury is methylmercury, a toxicant which can be ingested through diet, transferred from mothers to fetuses and pass the blood-brain barrier. Methylmercury is formed when metallic mercury reacts with aquatic microbes in soil, lakes, oceans and sediment. Minimizing the emissions of mercury is therefore crucial.
Read more details about the project at the on EU:s web page.
- Develop guidelines for minimizing emissions of mercury from dental amalgam in dental clinics that can initiate or inspire national and EU-wide guidelines.
- Develop more efficient methods for decontamination.
- Increase awareness and know-how on how to reduce emissions of mercury among dental teams, environmental officers and service technicians.
Screenings of suction systems and amalgam separators at dental clinics
Analyze, develop and test methods for decontamination and measurement methods
Develop proposals for national guidelines
Develop an online training tool, workshops and information materials
Dissemination of information and results
A Reference Group has been established to ensure the quality and environmental level of the project and for disseminating information. The Reference Group consists of persons who are affected by the results of the project. They are chosen to represent features that take responsibility for the entire chain, from "the handling of amalgam to clean water" - upstream work (stop dangerous substances at source) to the flourishing lakes and oceans in balance. Representatives from The Swedish Dental Association as well as Swedish authorities; The Swedish River Basin District Authorities, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and Swedish Chemicals Agency are engaged. Stockholm International Water Institute is also a member of the Reference Group. Nearly all of the members are also engaged in European working groups.
Members in the Reference Group:
Hans Göransson, The Swedish Dental Association
Gerda Kinell, The Swedish River Basin District Authorities
Kristina Svinhufvud, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
Anna Nylander, Swedish Chemicals Agency
Nicolai Schaaf, Swedish Water House, Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI
About our partners
Sweden Recycling works with the disposal of mercury-contaminated sludge and other dangerous waste from dental care. Praktikertjänst has an agreement with Sweden Recycling for the treatment of hazardous waste from dental care.
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute is a nonprofit research organization that researches and works with the goal of achieving a sustainable society. As a partner in the project, they ensure that the used methods are reliable.