Common Questions About Amalgam Separators & the EPA Dental Rule

May 4, 2018

It’s been almost a year since the Environmental Protection Agency amalgam separation regulation was issued. If you don’t have one installed yet, you may have questions about amalgam separators and how to make sure you’re in compliance.  Below are some common questions we at Solmetex receive about these issues. 

Q: Which practices does the EPA rule apply to?

A.  The federal regulation applies to dental offices, dental schools and clinics that discharge water to a publicly owned treatment works.

 Q: How long do I have to install an amalgam separator?

A: New practices have 90 days to be in compliance by installing a certified ISO 11143:2008 amalgam separator. An existing practice without a separator has until July 14, 2020. Existing practices with a non-complying separator have 10 years to install one that meets the federal regulation.

Q: Why do I need an amalgam separator when I haven’t placed amalgam fillings in years?

A: You may not place amalgam fillings, but if you still remove them, you need to recycle that amalgam.  In fact, anything that comes in contact with amalgam needs to be recycled. The EPA regulation requires that practices recycle both wet and dry amalgam waste. Dry amalgam waste includes chair-side traps, vacuum filters, contact and non-contact amalgam, amalgam capsules and teeth with amalgam. These all must be stored in a container labeled “amalgam waste.”

Q: What practices are NOT required to install an amalgam separator?

A: The regulation does not apply to mobile units or offices that do not place or remove amalgam. The following specialties need only to submit certification of this:

  • Oral pathology
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiology
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Orthodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

Q: What are some things I should think about when deciding upon which amalgam separator to purchase?

A: If the regulation applies to your practice, and you need to purchase a unit, you’re going to want to keep the following in mind:

  • How many chairs you have and how many chairs could be serviced by one unit.
  • If space a constraint when choosing an installation location.
  • If your office has a wet ring or dry vacuum system.

If you’re considering a specific amalgam separator, here are some questions you’ll want to make sure you ask before you purchase:

  • Does the separator include a recycling program? If so, how you can access and manage compliance paperwork, including certificates of compliance?
  • Will your office staff manage the separator maintenance, or does it require outside services from a vendor?
  • What is the cost to maintain the unit?
  • Does the purchase of a separator require a contract for maintenance?


Blog written by our friends at Dental Product Shopper .