Did you know that marine plant life generates 70% of the oxygen we breathe?1 The oceans are our most important ecosystems, and yet humans continue to destroy them with our waste and pollution.
The mixture of waste produced by dental practices is particularly problematic. A blend of municipal, dental, clinical and sometimes even hazardous materials, waste from practices includes metals, plastics and harsh chemicals, all of which can have a detrimental effect on our natural environment.
It’s estimated that up to 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year.2 Plastic is dangerous to marine life as it doesn’t biodegrade – it just breaks into smaller pieces which become easier for fish and other creatures to mistake for food and accidentally consume, often with fatal consequences.
In dental practices, plastic is a common material. From synthetic latex gloves to plastic instruments, dentistry has many single use plastic items, which could all end up in our oceans if not properly disposed of.
There are strict rules concerning the disposal of biomedical waste, but that doesn’t stop some of it being dumped and reaching our oceans. From items such as disinfectants and bleaches used to sanitise workspaces to the chemicals used during surgical procedures, these items offer significant risk, and can harm the environment in multiple ways.
Biomedical waste is particularly problematic for wildlife as harsh chemicals can poison creatures. Even if they are not consumed, chemicals can leak into the water and be absorbed into the food chain that way, and many of these chemicals are having disastrous effects on wildlife such as causing heart abnormalities and deformities.3
Amalgam poses a significant threat to ocean ecosystems due to its mercury and silver content. Though seemingly inconsequential, the small particles of amalgam present in wastewater can flow directly into the water system and eventually potentially reach the sea if separators are not correctly installed.
One study found that mercury levels in the ocean have tripled since pre-industrial times.4 This presents a problem as anyone who consumes mercury-laden fish runs the risk of mercury poisoning. This can cause neurological disorders, damage to the nervous system and can even be fatal.
Dispose of waste responsibly
By introducing an easy to follow system to correctly dispose of waste, you can ensure that it doesn’t end up in the natural environment.
Initial Medical’s new Colour Code Characters are a great way of clarifying and implementing the best practice colour coded system for waste management. Initial Medical also offers a full collection, disposal and recycling service that ensures that waste of all varieties is disposed of safely, legally and far away from precious ocean habitats.
Cleaner oceans for our future
Keeping oceans clean for future generations is our responsibility. By properly disposing of waste, raising awareness and educating staff you can prevent the harmful effects to marine life.
For further information please visit www.initial.co.uk/healthcare-waste/or Tel: 0870 850 4045
 The National Geographic. Save the Plankton, Breathe Freely. Link: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/save-the-plankton-breathe-freely/ [Last accessed March18].
 Jambeck, J., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R., Law, K. (2015). Plastic Waste Inputs From Land Into The Ocean. Science Volume 347, pages 768-771.
 Swapnalee, s., Marrs, J. (2016). Zebrafish as a Vertebrate Model System to Evaluate the Effects of Environmental Toxicants on Cardiac Development and Function. Int J Mol Sci. Volume 17(12), page 2123.
 Lamborg, C., Hammerschmidt, C., Bowman, K., Swarr, G., Munson, K., Ohnemus, D., Lam, P., Heimburger, L., Rijkenberg, M., Saito, M. (2014). A Global Ocean Inventory of Anthropogenic Mercury Based on Water Column Measurements. Nature Magazine, Volume 512, pages 65-68.