In this fourth and final Blog in our sustainability series that we have prepared in collaboration with Gravity Wave we would like to share with you some tips so that you can manage toxic waste that generates in your dental clinic on a regular basis in a correct, safe and also environmentally friendly way.
The main reason for the hazardousness of these wastes is the presence of heavy metals which are chemical elements of high density. But not all heavy metals are toxic; in fact, some are necessary for human beings. However, there are others, such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and thallium (Tl), which could cause serious environmental and human health complications. The problem with these elements is that they cannot be chemically or biologically degraded and they accumulate and magnify in living organisms, reaching high concentrations and causing serious toxic effects in humans, such as chronic pain, blood problems and even psychic effects such as anxiety, among many others.
In this blog we will show you which materials you should be especially cautious with and what could be the consequences of mishandling them. Read on!
Toxic waste management in the dental clinic
The most common toxic residues in dental clinics are the following:
- Amalgam residues
- Waste of radiographic film components
- Residues from radiographic fluids
In the dental clinic we cannot dispense with the use of most of these materials, but we can be responsible in their use. conscientious use and safe disposal, not only to comply with the law, but also to preserve our health, that of our work team and our patients; and also to take care of the planet. But are we clear about what we should do with each toxic waste? We tell you.
Management of toxic amalgam waste
The amalgam consists of two elements, one solid, which is the alloy for amalgamation, and the other liquid, which is mercury tridistilled. The amalgam alloy is generally constituted by silver, tin, copper, mercury and zinc.
While the dental amalgam is in disuse, it is still present in your patients' old restorations. In 2017 the European Union approved the gradual reduction in the use of amalgam with the aim of completely eliminating its use by 2030. Spain is on the way to achieving this goal; there are surveys that indicate that Spanish dentists in primary dentition use mainly composite resins and sinus resins. 1 out of every 100 cases use amalgam. At present, these plans that promote the reduction of the use of this material are necessary due to the serious damage that it can cause to people's health, since the use of this material can be harmful to people's health. mercury and the methylmercury are toxic to the central and peripheral nervous system.
How is dental amalgam waste managed?
- Try not to prepare more material than you are going to use: in this way you will avoid a greater amount of waste, although often in spite of the calculations, there will be surplus amalgam left over that you will have to dispose of properly.
- Do not use amalgam in the treatment of primary teeth, in children under 15 years of age or in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- When removing an amalgam restoration, use an rubber dam to prevent the patient from contacting or swallowing the residues. We also advise you to use more water in the cooling of the bur to prevent heat and volatilization of the mercury vapor.
- Use amalgam separators: with the objective of retaining amalgam residues. According to the law, these separators must ensure a retention of at least 95% of the particles.
- Amalgam waste must be handled and collected by a specialized waste management company.
Toxic residues from radiographic films
The radiographic films They are present in almost all dental clinics and are currently composed of a flexible polyester film measuring 0.2 mm thick that is coated on both sides with a thin adhesive that serves to bond the gelatinous emulsion of the film. This emulsion is mainly composed of silver halide and by crystals of silver bromide. Other elements of radiographic films are the wrapper that covers the film and protects it from light and the lead that protects it from scattered retrograde radiation; and lastly, an outer vinyl wrap.
Silver, present in the radiographic films and also in the dental amalgamcan have harmful effects on the human organism ranging from argyria (skin staining) and eye and skin irritations, to more serious respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
Undoubtedly, the most harmful element contained in a radiographic film is the lead, which is considered one of the most harmful metals to health due to its neurotoxic effects. The lead causes harmful effects whether ingested or inhaled and is capable of affecting almost every organ of the body, especially the nervous system.
How is radiographic film waste managed?
- The lead sheets should not be disposed of with ordinary waste, but should be collected in polypropylene containers that can be easily opened or closed, so that the films do not come into contact with oxygen and degrade or oxidize.
- It should be avoided that the lead sheets The radiographic liquids may get wet, as this may cause fragility of the film and the release of highly toxic particles.
- Each of the radiographic film components should be stored separately prior to disposal, as they contain lead and should not be mixed with ordinary waste.
- Each of the components of the radiographic films, especially the lead foils, must be handled and collected by a specialized waste management company.
- What to do with the X-rays you no longer need? Take them to the clean point, there is a special place for them. Because they are recyclable! The process of recycling X-rays is interesting, as they are cut into small pieces, washed to remove all the toxic residues and then melted down. In addition, part of the toxic residues left in the wash water are silver particles that can be used to make jewelry. Curious, isn't it? The second life of an X-ray can be a fleece liner, packaging and even beautiful earrings.
Toxic residues from radiographic fluids
Liquids used in the process of developing radiographs such as the developer, fixer and water used for washing the film contain highly toxic chemicals.
The hydroquinone which is present in the developer liquid, is classified as a poisonous substance when inhaled or absorbed through the skin and can also contaminate water. On the other hand, the ethylene glycolwhich is present in both developer liquid and fixative, can cause irritation and toxic effects when absorbed through the skin, inhaled or ingested. Also, in the fixative liquid is present the acetic acid which is released in the form of vapor and may cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory system, as well as skin burns.
How are radiographic liquid wastes managed?
- The X-ray developer and fixer fluids are highly toxic substances, but after their function they are even more so, since they contain silver halides that have detached from the radiographic films, so it is not enough to neutralize them, it is essential to collect them and for no reason should they be disposed of in the drainage system.
- When your radiographic fluids If they have already lost their properties, they should be disposed of separately, so the recommendation is to store them in polypropylene gallons with hermetic caps. Always remember to label on the outside of the container which waste it corresponds to.
- Radiographic liquid waste must be handled and collected by a specialized waste management company.
What is the most important thing you need to know about dental practice toxic waste management?
If you have made it this far, it is because you are truly committed to the sustainability of your dental practice and we are very happy that this is the case and above all to be able to lend you a hand. Here is a brief summary of the most important points of this blog:
- The toxic waste we generate in the dental clinic is highly hazardous to people's health and seriously pollutes our planet.
- The correct separation of waste is a practice that we must integrate into our daily lives. We must avoid at all costs mixing hazardous waste with other types of waste and thus prevent hazardous waste from being mixed with other types of waste. heavy metals to urban landfills.
- Whenever you must handle these hazardous wastes, you must do so with the necessary barrier measures (gloves, masks, goggles, etc.) to protect your health.
- You should always manage hazardous waste with the help of companies specialized in waste management..
- X-rays are recyclable! If you no longer need them, take them to a clean point and tell your patients to do the same.
- Dentists are very important in taking care of people's health and can also help to raise awareness in their environment about the importance of the correct classification and management of all types of waste, especially toxic waste. Are you up for it?
We have reached the end of our series of blogs on sustainability and we are very grateful for your interest and commitment to the planet. Here you can find the complete series so that you can implement small gestures in your daily life that will undoubtedly make a big difference:
- Part 1: The correct way to classify waste in the dental practice
- Part 2: How to manage the waste of the most commonly used materials in the dental clinic?
- Part 3: Sustainable practices for waste management of dental impression and casting materials
If you have questions or comments you can always contact us and follow us on our social networks We are waiting for you! And don't miss our next articles with interesting information, news and trends in the dental sector. See you soon!