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10/17/2014 » 10/18/2014
2014 Green Dentistry Conference

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X-Ray Pollution





Conventional X-Ray Pollution


Conventional x-rays create trash and toxic chemical-waste that the dental office is left to dispose of.

Dental practitioners are responsible by law to handle the disposal safely.

The chemical fixers and lead foils from x-ray processes have to go somewhere, which often means public sewer systems.


Health Risks of X-Ray Fixer Solutions

Traditional x-ray fixers contain chemicals such as Ammonium Thiocyanate and Boric anhydride.These chemicals are known to be skin, eye and respiratory tract irritants, and hazardous if ingested or inhaled. They also may be toxic to the blood, thyroid, kidneys and liver, and repeated or prolonged exposure can produce target organ damage. 


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They are toxic to fish, and have shown to cause adverse reproductive and developmental effects in animals with repeated exposure. Boric anhydride has been shown to have neurological impacts such as personality and mood changes, mania and even seizures. The products of the degradation of these materials are shown to be as toxic as the original product.

According to Healthcare Environmental Resource Center, spent x-ray fixer is a hazardous waste (RCRA waste code D011) because of its high silver content. The regulatory level is 5 mg/l silver and used fixer typically contains 3,000 to 8,000 mg/l of silver. As such, it cannot be legally dumped in the sewer or disposed of as common solid waste.


The EDA estimates that the US dental industry disposes as much as 28 million liters of x-ray fixer every year.

It doesn’t have to be this way!


The EDA estimates US dental offices dispose 48 million lead foils each year.

Another by-product of traditional x-rays is lead foils. In the environment, lead waste is held in the topsoil, where it can remain for as long as 2000 years. It is readily picked up by plants, and enters our food system. Lead is a deadly neurotoxin.

Despite the multiple environmental and human-health threats posed by traditional x-rays, only 25% of dental offices in the US have eliminated these materials from their practice by switching to digital imaging.


It's High Time for High Tech

The EDA is partnering with dentistry's high-tech industry leaders to:
  • Flip the percentage of offices with digital imaging
  • Encourage adoption of CAD-CAM dentistry
  • Expand the use of soft-tissue lasers for periodontal hygiene
  • Integrate hard-tissue lasers for restorative dentistry
  • Make LED Operatory lights the norm
  • Increase access to digital early diagnostic tools
Contact us if your company would like to join the EDA's High Time for High Tech Campaign!