New Dental Effluent Guidelines Take Effect

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new guidelines for capturing mercury and other metals from dental effluent went into effect on July 14.

The recently-codified rules require dental offices to use amalgam separators to keep mercury out of municipal wastewater systems. Existing separators can be used for their lifetime or 10 years, whichever comes first. After that, or when the separator breaks or otherwise needs to be replaced, dentists must purchase a model that meets the requirements of the final rule.

All collected materials must be recycled at an appropriate local facility. Chairside traps must be regularly cleaned to capture any residual metals.

Existing dental practices must comply with these rules by July 14, 2020. New practices must follow them as soon as they open. Offices must submit a one-time compliance report to the EPA to demonstrate that they are following the regulations.

The dental effluent guidelines were developed with input from the American Dental Association, which recommended several best practices. The rule was placed on hold in January when the Trump Administration halted many agency regulations developed during the Obama Administration. In June the EPA announced that it was moving forward with implementation.

More information about the guidelines is available at