Dentists Protecting Health By Filtering Mercury

By: Kendra Potter Email
By: Kendra Potter Email

What most of us don’t know is if you have metal fillings in your teeth, you have a form of mercury inside your mouth.

This form of mercury doesn’t harm you, but when it washes down the drain and into the environment, it turns toxic.

When dentists put fillings in your mouth, their tools suck up the leftover mercury waste.

It then goes through the plumbing system and into our wastewater system.

But now health officials and dentists are teaming up to stop it with mercury filters. The filter can stop if before it even leaves the office.

Officials say it captures about 95 percent of the mercury.

The Pueblo Health Department is helping fund the filters through a grant. Over 80 percent of dentists in Pueblo and Fremont counties have jumped on board.

“One dental office might not contribute a lot of mercury, but when you have 50 dental offices like we do in Pueblo, contributing a little mercury over a long period of time, it stays in the environment and it’s very bad,” said Environmental Coordinator Jenny Kedward.

Kedward says this form of mercury is called Amalgam. It’s not harmful to humans in this state, but it gets toxic once it gets into the environment.

“When it gets into the environment it’s in an elemental stage. It then gets converted into a type of compound that can absorb into fish and plants, and then of course we eat fish, we eat animals that eat fish, and it continues to build up in our systems over a long period of time,” said Kedward.

A toxic metal that can be hazardous to our health if we ingest it.

“Even with a little bit of mercury in our systems, it can cause developmental damages, cognitive, reproductive damages. So we want to get it out of the environment before it can build up in our human bodies,” said Kedward.

The Amalgam separators are part of the health department’s Mercury Reduction Project, aiming at lessening mercury in the air and waterways in Pueblo County.

The filters are optional to dentist, but those who do participate will be reimbursed up to $1,200 by the Health Department through a mercury reduction grant. Dental offices will only have to pay for mercury disposal every three to 12 months depending on the device they chose.

Soon all dentist offices may have to get one of the filters. Health officials say the EPA may start regulating it as early as this year.

In the meantime, more dentists are encouraged to get involved, and patients encouraged to support those who do.

To view which dentists visit one of the links below:

Or you can look for a decal in the window of their offices.

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