College of Dental Medicine

The Office of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) and the College of Dental Medicine (CDM) work in collaboration to address patient, student, clinician and environmental safety. The cornerstone of this collaboration is a robust annual staff and student training program.  Each year, EH&S delivers 12 hours of safety and environmental management training to more than 400 CDM staff and students. The training covers topics such as laboratory and occupational safety, hazard communication, environmental stewardship, waste management, bloodborne pathogens and fire & life safety.  In addition, CDM has clinical policies and procedures specifically established to address these topics as it relates to clinical care.  These are available through the CDM intranet website.

The effectiveness of CDM’s environmental management programs is the result of a continued commitment to environmental protection and being adaptable to change in an ever-changing environmental climate. For years EH&S and CDM have been partnering to recycle dental materials such as  mercury-containing scrap dental amalgam ,lead foils and silver recovery.  In 2006, when NYSDEC enacted regulations for installing and managing amalgam separators in dental facilities, CDM was already prepared for the May 2008 implementation date in existing facilities having spent significant time with EH&S researching various separator technologies before the NYSDEC rule was ever written. Presently, the CDM has four amalgam separator units installed which are equipped to remove at least 99% of mercury from dental wastewater discharges from the clinic.  This equipment, in conjunction with chair side trap collection, results in dental amalgam removal efficiency upwards of 99.87%.

Beyond mercury, EH&S and CDM partner to ensure the proper operation and management of several silver recovery systems which are employed to help filter contaminants from the radiographic processing effluent before it enters the wastewater.  Along with silver from the processing, EH&S also recycles the lead foil collected by CDM from the dental X-ray packaging. More information regarding EH&S’s recycling information such as silver.


CDM Waste Management Guidelines:

Amalgam waste contains mercury and silver both considered hazardous metals by the EPA.  Therefore, amalgam must be collected and processed in accordance with NYSDEC regulations for recycling and recovery specified in Title 6 NYCRR Part 374-4. Amalgam must be collected and stored in a leak and vapor proof container labeled with the type of dental amalgam waste and the date when the material was first added to the container.  EH&S provides “exempt scrap metal-dental amalgam” labels. These containers must be closed when not actively adding material.  These containers are dated and must not exceed 1 year in storage. Please do not locate containers within the CDM areas without prior approval through EH&S.

Amalgam separator unit photo

Amalgam capsules contain amalgam. Amalgam capsules and scraps must be discarded into the provided container located at each operatory. The used capsules may not be thrown into the trash or regulated medical waste containers. Each small container should be pre-filled with ¼ inch of water to aid in the transfer to the EH&S provided pre-labeled 5-gallon collection container located on each floor in the clinical areas.

Photo of dental amalgam capsules

Aerosol Cans pose a unique hazardous waste problem because they consist of three types of materials, each of which may be classified as hazardous waste: 1) the can itself; 2) the liquid product contained in the can; and 3) the gaseous propellant. EH&S has provided the CDM with a number of aerosol collection containers throughout the laboratories and clinical areas.  Aerosol cans must have the original cap placed on the can or the nozzle removed.  The can must then be placed in an EH&S provided collection container with a EH&S provided pre-labeled hazardous waste label affixed. 

Photo of Aerosol collection container

Battery Recycling is widely promoted by EH&S to help prevent contamination of the environment by heavy metals and other toxic chemicals from batteries. Used battery collection containers can be found in the hallways of P&S, PH, and Black. Please refer to the battery recycling guidelines prior to disposal.

Example of a battery collection container.

Chair side lamps generally do not contain mercury but are collected to be properly recycled by an approved EH&S vendor. If a chair light lamp needs to be exchanged, please notify a CDM supervisor.

Dental chair traps contain trace amount of amalgam and must be placed in an EH&S provided pre-labeled 5-gallon collection container located on each floor. Do not rinse or otherwise attempt to clean particle traps prior to placement in the containers.

Chairside traps being removed; traps are removed at least weekly by CDM Staff.
Waste collection container for chairside traps in CDM Clinic; Containers are checked monthly by EH&S.

Extracted teeth may contain trace amounts of amalgam and therefore must be placed in the EH&S provided pre-labeled collection containers. Each container must be pre-filled with ½ inch of a 10% Bleach solution, which serves as a sterilant.

Waste collection container for extracted teeth containing amalgam in CDM Clinic; container is managed by EH&S

Fluorescent lamps are managed as a universal waste per NYSDEC requirements.  All fluorescent lamps contain mercury and must not be placed in the trash. Facilities routinely changes fluorescent lamps and properly disposes of them through EH&S.  If a fluorescent lamp needs to be changed please notify CUMC Facilities. Please refer to the EH&S lamp recycling website for additional information.

Lead foil from the X-ray film process must be placed in the Lead Foil Recycling Containers, which are located next to the X-Ray developer units. When full, these containers are sent for recycling. Do not place the plastic component of the film or the film itself into these containers. 

Image of lead foil collection container

DCP are to submit unused (expired or surplus) carpules containing Epinephrine to the Supervisor of the Sterilization Unit. They will be labeled with an orange hazardous waste sticker and collected by EH&S as part of the hazardous waste collection program. Empty Epinephrine carpules should be placed in sharps containers.  Liquid from partially used carpules should be deposited into a piece of gauze, and disposed in the municipal waste.  The empty carpule is then disposed into a sharps container. Dental carpules, regardless of origin, should NOT be placed into red bags or municipal waste containers.

Scrap X-ray film contains silver, a hazardous waste, and must be collected.  Spent film must be collected in the “Scrap Film Collection Containers” located near the film developing units. Do not place any other items except for film into the containers. Please remove the film from any protective covers prior to putting it in the film collection containers. Scrap X-ray film may not be thrown into the regular trash or regulated medical waste.

Container for scrap film collection

Serviced quarterly by an EH&S approved vendor to reduce the potential for silver, a toxic, heavy metal regulated by the USEPA, NYSDEC and NYCDEP, from entering the environment in wastewater (e.g., equipment effluent) or as a solid waste (e.g., film media) by-product of image/photo developing activities. Since waste generated in the processing of images/photos contains silver, all waste from these activities must be collected and/or filtered in accordance with the below EH&S waste guidelines.  For all image/photo processing equipment utilizing “wet chemistry” methods (e.g., fixer and developer) these units must be outfitted with equipment to recover silver halide from the wastewater effluent prior to discharge into the New York City Public Sewer System, as required by RCNY Title 15 Chapter 19-03 and Chapter 19-07. More information regarding silver recovery information at Columbia University and CDM is available through EH&S.

Photo silver recovery unit

Sterlization tape may contain lead that exceeds the hazardous waste disposal limits for municipal trash disposal. CDM sterilization tape is Latex and Lead Free benefiting those with latex allergies and the environment from lead disposal. CDM’s choice for sterilization tape is through Schein Dental –Latex/Lead Free Sterilization Tape (Product # 1126361)
For CDM waste that is not specifically listed in the above guidelines (e.g., methyl methacrylate, gypsum powder) EH&S has prepared the 5Ls of hazardous waste management to ensure regulatory compliance throughout the CDM learning and clinical areas. Please affix a chemical/hazardous waste label to the closed, in good-condition container and then submit a chemical waste pickup request. If there are any questions regarding proper waste management or disposal, please contact EH&S at 212-305-6780.