Success Story: Barkley Boulevard Dental Care

Barkley Boulevard Dental Care
2075 Barkley Boulevard Suite 260 Bellingham, WA 98226
(360) 312-4163

Barkley Boulevard Dental Care in Bellingham found that its digital radiography machine reduced the amount of photographic fixer, developer and x-ray cleaner used by 80 percent. Digital radiography is also safer: patients receive two-thirds less radiation when receiving x-rays. Owner Dr. Seelye uses a steam sterilizer, which eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals to clean dental instruments. “It is great to participate in a reward program to reduce waste in our community,” said Dr. Seelye.

Be a part of the Solution to Pollution: Choose EnviroStars certified Dental Offices
EnviroStars is a widely respected, environmental certification program that businesses qualify for voluntarily. Consumers who use EnviroStars certified dental offices can be confident that they are supporting environmentally responsible businesses whose facilities and practices have been reviewed by a local government technical advisor.

The problem
Dentists help keep your teeth healthy, but their work can take a bite out of the planet. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, every year dental practices generate:

  • 4.8 million lead foils
  • 3.7 tons of mercury waste
  • 28 million liters of toxic x-ray fixer
  • 1.7 billion sterilization pouches
  • 680 million plastic chair barriers, light handle covers and dental bibs

Why it matters
Dental offices use materials which can produce waste that contains hazards, such as lead, mercury and silver, with potentially harmful effects on health and the environment.

If not properly handled, mercury from dental filling scraps and rinse water may end up passing through septic systems and sewer treatment plants, settling in pipes or entering the environment where it takes very little mercury to contaminate a lake or bay. Used fixer from x-rays contains high concentrations of silver - 3,000 to 8,000 parts per million - and anything over 5 ppm is considered hazardous waste, yet the silver can be recovered with treatment.

How EnviroStars helps
The good news is there are alternatives and metals reclamation options for most of these wastes. EnviroStars certified dental offices place a high value on environmentally responsible practices, and they work with EnviroStars consultants to make their business operations greener. More than 200 dentists are currently EnviroStars-certified in King, Kitsap, Jefferson, Pierce, Skagit, Spokane, and Whatcom counties.

Many EnviroStar dentists no longer place mercury amalgams in patients’ teeth, although they may still remove and replace old mercury (silver) fillings. They handle wastes from dental fillings by using separator equipment to remove the mercury before disposing of waste water, and send waste filling scraps to a service that recovers the mercury. Mercury has been reduced by 50 percent in King County’s wastewater treatment system since the year 2000 thanks in large part to changes made in the dental industry. EnviroStar dentists also use services that recover silver for reuse.

One important step that many dentists take is to use digital radiography or electronic “x-ray” imaging. This is an effective alternative to developing film. No toxic chemicals are needed to develop the images, which are viewed electronically on computers. The process requires significantly less energy and radiation to obtain an image.

Dentists use a steam-based sterilization system rather than a chemical-based one, and take other steps to reduce waste, such as cloth patient bibs that can be laundered and reused, suction systems rather than “swish” cups, and energy-efficient lighting.

Reach for the Stars: EnviroStars
Look for the EnviroStars decal in the windows of local businesses, or search our online directly to find a certified dental clinic in your neighborhood. If your dental clinic does not have an EnviroStars certification, don’t be afraid to ask the business about the practices it uses. Increased consumer interest serves as an incentive for businesses to consider safer alternatives.

For a complete list of EnviroStars businesses in your area - for all kinds of services from car repair to dry cleaning to landscapers to printing, or to find out more about certification for your business.