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​Update: Amalgam separators on dirty sinks and washer disinfectors

21 December 2018


The BDA has received queries from members about amalgam separators and whether there is a need to install them on dirty sinks and washer disinfectors.


New EU Regulations state that:


From 1 January 2019, operators of dental facilities in which dental amalgam is used or dental amalgam fillings or teeth containing such fillings are removed, shall ensure that their facilities are equipped with amalgam separators for the retention and collection of amalgam particles, including those contained in used water. (EU)2017/852


The Hazardous Waste Regulations (2005 - England and Wales) classified all dental amalgam as 'hazardous waste', with similar regulations operating in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  


If a practice uses or removes amalgam, the chair must be fitted with an amalgam separator, which is designed to remove amalgam waste particles from the wastewater and should be of ISO standard 11143:2008.


If the separator is fitted centrally (rather than chairside), the practice should have evidence that the waste water from each chair is going through this separator.


After discussions with the British Dental Industry Association, the BDA's position is that, providing amalgam separators are fitted to suction units and correct waste handling controls are adhered to, the amount of amalgam particulate going down a manual cleaning sink or through a washer disinfector would be negligible.


Therefore, it is the BDA's view that separators on these areas are not necessary.


In relation to this issue, practices may wish to consider the following:


  • If you do decide to have a filter box placed under your dirty sink and/or washer disinfector, ensure it is changed at appropriate intervals. This frequency will vary from practice to practice.
  • Ensure any excess amalgam is disposed of safely chairside. For example, dispose of excess amalgam in carriers or dappens dishes either down the spittoon (which will then be separated by the amalgam separator on your suction unit) or placed directly into the amalgam waste container.
  • Ensure you are adhering to other appropriate controls around amalgam usage eg high volume aspiration and encapsulated amalgam only. 
  • Ensure you keep a log book for your amalgam separator(s) which demonstrates adherence to correct maintenance, inspection and disposal.

The BDA has been lobbying at the European Union level and globally for over 10 years to avoid an unworkable blanket ban on dental amalgam. Read our FAQs for information and guidance.


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