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Notice to Readers NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Controlling Exposures to Nitrous Oxide During Anesthetic Administration

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues alerts on workplace hazards that have caused death, serious injury, or illness to workers. One such alert, Request for Assistance in Controlling Exposures to Nitrous Oxide During Anesthetic Administration (1), was published recently and is available to the public. *

Nitrous oxide is used as an anesthetic agent in medical, dental, and veterinary operatories. Occupational exposures in dental operatories may be excessive and tend to be more difficult to control than in general operating theaters. Approximately 424,000 workers (i.e., dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists) practice dentistry in the United States; in a 1991 survey by the American Dental Association, 58% of dentists reported having nitrous oxide anesthetic equipment.

Workers exposed to nitrous oxide may suffer adverse reproductive effects and decreases in mental performance, audiovisual ability, and manual dexterity. This alert presents control measures for preventing or substantially reducing exposure to nitrous oxide during administration of anesthetic gas. These control measures should be part of a written comprehensive safety and health plan for workers.


  1. NIOSH. NIOSH alert: NIOSH request for assistance in controlling exposures to nitrous oxide during anesthetic administration. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1994; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)94-100.

    • Single copies of this document are available without charge from the Publications Office, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, CDC, Mailstop C-13, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998; telephone (800) 356-4674 ({513} 533-8328 for persons outside of the United States); fax (513) 533-8573.

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