The new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to force dentists to reduce their mercury emissions from dental fillings is flawed, states a new study from the Mercatus Center.
The regulation, to be implemented in September, would compel all dentists to use “separators” in order to minimize mercury effluents in the water supply when they remove old fillings or take out excess mercury from new ones. The EPA states that mercury ultimately gets to sea animals like fish and shellfish, and can be hazardous to humans.
Sean Mulholland, the lead scholar for the Mercatus Center’s Regulatory Report Card Project, which conducted the study, argues that the EPA needs to back to the drawing board before it makes it finalizes the regulation.
“First of all, there is no cost-benefit analysis to the regulation,” says the associate professor of Economics at Stonehill College. “While there will be benefits to have less mercury in our water supply, this will come at a cost if all dentists need to use separators that keep mercury from polluting.”
“Besides, how much more can we decrease mercury emissions?” he asks. “The Food and Drug Administration recently conducted a meta-analysis of many studies related to fish consumption in infants and children. The results only showed a marginal negative effect (if at all) on the child’s development with the present regulations.”
Mulholland claims that local and state governments are already taking care of the problem.
“Since the last EPA study 30 years ago, state and local governments were able to increase mercury cleaning from 90 percent to 95, and sometimes 98 percent,” he said. “Also, since dentists are aware of the neurological effects of mercury, many of them simply started using other safer materials for their fillings.”
Having a one-size-fits-all regulation from the EPA worries Mulholland. “At the moment, we can see what works and what doesn’t since the solutions are decentralized. But should the EPA step in and impose the mercury separator, this will impose huge cost on states that may have spent huge sums on water treatment plants.”
“This will also likely impose a cost on the low-income consumers,” he believes. “The cost of this new regulation will likely be imposed on consumers, meaning that those with lower incomes will postpone treatment.”