Did you know that marine plant life generates 70% of the oxygen we breathe?1 Ocean life is one of our most important ecosystems – keeping the oceans clean helps support those ecosystems. Yet humans continue to destroy them with our waste and pollution.
The mixture of waste produced by dental practices is particularly difficult. 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 harmful effect on our ocean life.
Ocean life consumes plastic
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. Once accidentally eaten, plastic can often prove fatal.
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.
Biomedical materials can poison wildlife
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 many 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 ocean life, and many of these chemicals are having disastrous effects on wildlife such as causing heart abnormalities and deformities.3
Amalgam is reaching waterways
Amalgam poses a significant threat to ocean life because it contains mercury and silver. 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
You can stop waste from ending up in the natural environment by introducing an easy-to-follow system.
Initial Medical’s new Colour Code Characters are a great way of clarifying and implementing the best practice colour coding system for waste management. Initial Medical also offers a full collection, disposal and recycling service. This service disposes of all waste varieties safely, legally, and far away from precious ocean habitats, helping to keep the oceans clean.
Preserving ocean life for our future
Preserving ocean life 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.
 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.