The Association has analyzed what it asserts is an “egregiously inaccurate” report on the handling and recycling of dental office waste and has refuted the accusation that organized dentistry has not acted in an environmentally responsible and ethical manner.
“The dental community cares deeply about all matters affecting public health. Our record speaks for itself,” the ADA said in a written response to the report “Dentist the Menace? The Uncontrolled Release of Dental Mercury,” released June 5 by the Mercury Policy Project and Health Care Without Harm.
“The 140,000 ADA member dentists, their hundreds of thousands of caring employees, and the many ADA and state and local dental society employees are highly conscious of environmental issues, not only in the interest of their patients but also their families, loved ones and future generations.”
Dental associations have taken numerous actions in addressing environmental issues, the ADA statement says, including:
* encouraging recycling of dental amalgam since the 1980s;
* recommending elimination of bulk dental mercury and bulk dental amalgam alloy in favor of precapsulated amalgam alloy;
* urging manufacturers of dental amalgam to continue to improve this restorative material and ensure safe handling of all its components;
* conducting laboratory research on and encouraging use of amalgam separators;
* leading the way in developing new and improved restorative materials, including composite resin materials.
In addition to establishing organized dentistry’s record of environmental responsibility, the ADA statement refutes specific assertions made in the Health Care Without Harm report:
* While it is not disputed that dental offices are sources of amalgam discharge, relative contributions of total mercury to wastewater depend on other sources of discharge to a particular wastewater treatment plant and estimates vary widely.
* The report’s description of the effects of mercury is not applicable to dental amalgam, a solid intermetallic compound of mercury, silver, tin and copper that has been deemed a safe restorative material by federal agencies charged with protecting public health.
* Dentistry has no ulterior motive for including amalgam, a relatively inexpensive, durable material, as an option among restorative materials.
* The ADA has not obstructed environmental initiatives at the state and local level but rather serves as a clearinghouse for information on such issues and encourages state dental associations to work with local environmental regulators to reduce discharge of dental amalgam into the waste stream.
In a final comment on the report, the ADA calls on the reputable organizations whose names appear on the report to carefully examine the “Dentist the Menace?” document, “noting its deceptive use of citations, sloppy statistics and overall lack of scientific merit and to publicly disassociate themselves from this low caliber of workmanship.
“Documents of this sort create heat but not light and are unlikely to contribute anything worthwhile to an important public issue,” the ADA says.