Dangerous waste in dental offices comes from dental procedures, equipment, and cleaning solutions.

Dangerous waste requirements

Your dental office is required to properly handle and dispose of dangerous waste. Learn more about identifying, handling, and disposing of dangerous waste. Most dental offices are small quantity generators of dangerous waste.

Common wastes in dental offices

The most common types of dangerous waste in dental offices come from:

Dangerous waste does not include biohazard or infectious wastes like swabs saturated with blood.

Amalgam wastes

Dental amalgam is an alloy that contains mercury, as well as silver, tin, copper, and other metals. Mercury levels vary, but most dental amalgams exceed environmentally safe mercury levels. Amalgam wastes contaminate chair-side traps, vacuum pump filters, and septic systems.

Amalgam wastes usually have the waste codes D009 for mercury and D011 for silver (and possibly other codes).

Amalgam separators

Amalgam separators are required in all dental offices that use mercury-containing amalgams. Dental wastewater contains anywhere from 100 - 2,000 parts per million (ppm) of mercury. State regulations limit safe levels to 0.2 ppm or lower. Separators catch any scrap amalgam that is too fine for traps or screens before it reaches the sewer system. Separators can remove up to 99 percent of the mercury in dental wastewater, and that mercury can be recycled. Separators must be ISO 14011 certified.

Chair-side traps

Chair-side traps can be disposable or reusable. Disposable traps tend to be safer because it is difficult to remove reusable traps without spilling amalgam waste into the drain or garbage. Also, if your suction system can handle it, choose size 100 mesh traps over size 40. The smaller mesh is more effective at trapping amalgam particles.

How to recycle amalgam waste X-ray materials and other wastes
You may have more than what is on the above list. Contact your regional Ecology office to get help. Our staff can help identify rules you need to follow and answer questions.

One-time compliance report for dental dischargers

The EPA's finalized Dental Effluent Guidelines (federal rule 40 CFR Part 441) require qualifying dental offices submit a one-time compliance report.