The Environmentally Responsible Dentist - Dental Amalgam Recycling: Principles, Pathways and Practice

Publication ID Published Volume
8435 July 26, 2011 7


Marquette University’s School of Dentistry, along with the Environmental Protection Agency has developed a teaching module to educate dental students on proper dental amalgam waste management. The module aims to raise dental students’ awareness of the dental amalgam waste issue and to provide the students with practical steps to reduce the release of amalgam waste to the environment. Dental amalgam waste is a significant contributor of mercury discharges to municipal wastewater treatment facilities, often referred to as “publicly-owned treatment works” (POTWs). While POTWs have a high efficiency rate of removing amalgam from wastewaters (around 90%), a small amount of waste amalgam is discharged from POTWs into surface waters around the plants. Dental offices were found in 2003 to have been the source of 50% of all mercury pollution entering POTWs. In 2008, EPA estimated that dentists discharge approximately 3.7 tons of mercury each year to POTWs.

Incorporation of this module into a dental school curriculum and/or utilization of the module as a continuing education presentation will make the dental student, practicing clinician and dental team more aware of their role in helping to maintain a healthy water supply by acting in an environmentally responsible manner.


Stafford G. The environmentally responsible dentist - dental amalgam recycling: principles, pathways and practice. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2011;7:8435.

Educational Objectives

  1. To review a brief history of Amalgam.
  2. To appreciate both national and international related dental amalgam actions.
  3. To gain an understanding of mercury in dental amalgam.
  4. To be able to describe current governmental regulation of amalgam.
  5. To recognize the extent of dental amalgam use in the United States.
  6. To explain environmental fate and transport mechanisms of amalgam.
  7. To learn effective environmentally responsible practices.


  • Methylmercury Compounds, Mercury Poisoning, Amalgam

Prior Scholarly Dissemination


  1. Stafford GL. (2009) “The Environmentally Responsible Dentist.”University of Iowa College of Dentistry, Iowa City, IA. May 19.
  2. Stafford GL. (2008) “Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice.” Keynote Speaker – Academy of Operative Dentistry /Consortium of Operative Dentistry Educators Annual Session, Chicago, IL. February 21.
  3. Stafford GL. (2008) “Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice.”University of Nebraska College of Dentistry, Lincoln, NE. February 12.
  4. Stafford G. (2008) “Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice.”Creighton University School of Dentistry, Omaha, NE. February 11.

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