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

Publication ID Published Volume
8435 July 26, 2011 7


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 (approximately 90%), small amounts of waste amalgam are discharged from POTWs into surface waters around the plants. In 2003, dental offices were found have been the source of 50% of all mercury pollution entering POTWs. Further, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that dentists discharge approximately 3.7 tons of mercury each year to POTWs. Marquette University’s School of Dentistry, along with the EPA 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.

The resource consists of a 1-hour PowerPoint that can be easily incorporated into a dental institution’s curriculum. The utilization of this 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

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Understand a brief history of amalgam.
  2. Appreciate both national and international related dental amalgam actions.
  3. Gain an understanding of the purpose of mercury in dental amalgam.
  4. Describe current governmental regulation of amalgam.
  5. Recognize the extent of dental amalgam use in the US.
  6. Explain the environmental transport mechanisms and fate of amalgam.
  7. Understand effective environmentally responsible practices.


  • Methylmercury Compounds, Mercury Poisoning, Amalgam

Prior Scholarly Dissemination

  • Stafford GL. The Environmentally Responsible Dentist. Presented at: University of Iowa College of Dentistry. May 19, 2009; Iowa City, IA.
  • Stafford GL. Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice. Keynote Speaker at: Academy of Operative Dentistry /Consortium of Operative Dentistry Educators Annual Session; February 21, 2008; Chicago, IL.
  • Stafford GL. Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice. Presented at: University of Nebraska College of Dentistry; February 12, 2008; Lincoln, NE.
  • Stafford G. Dental Amalgam Recycling: Pathways, Principles, & Practice. Creighton University School of Dentistry; February 11, 2008; Omaha, NE.

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