An environmental study of mercury contamination in dental offices

An environmental health survey of 19 dental offices employing a total of 282 dental workers was conducted to determine sources of uncontrolled exposure of dental workers to mercury vapor. An additional objective of this study was to assess, on a job-function basis, those groups of workers at greatest risk with respect to handling mercury. Data obtained from analysis of collected wipe,air, and urine samples were used to evaluate the degree of risk with respect to absorption of mercury vapor for the cohorts studied. The group showing the greatest risk of exposure to mercury vapor is that comprised of dental assistants who prepare mercury amalgams for filling tooth cavities. No evidence of acute exposure to mercury vapor was found for any of the cohorts studied. Further studies appear to be warranted, in order to determine the effects on the health of those dental workers whose urinary mercury concentrations indicate absorption of abnormal amounts of mercury vapor.