A study was conducted to evaluate the magnitude of mercury (7439976) vapor exposure among dentists and their personnel. A random sample of 77 general practitioners and pedodontists from 33 communities in Massachusetts was selected to participate in the study. Mercury vapors were measured at the offices of the participating dentists during the preparation of amalgam. Not only was the amount of mercury in the air measured, but the contamination of the hands of dentists and dental assistants was also studied. Estimates were made as to the number of pounds of mercury used in a year and the number of amalgam fillings placed during the week preceding the survey. Urine specimens were requested at the time of the survey or shortly thereafter. A total of 134 urine analyses were performed. All the dentists were men, aged 30 to 75 years. Dental assistants, all female, were 18 to 69 years of age. Most of the mercury readings in the reception rooms were low, with 78 percent registering less than of 0.1mg/m3, and ranged up to 0.25mg/m3. Levels above the allowable limit were detected in 22 percent of the dental offices. In 32 percent of the sites the mercury vapor concentrations on the floors of the main operatories were above the threshold limit value. A comparison made based on the type of floor coverings in the various offices indicated that the absence of wall to wall carpeting did not prevent a high mercury concentration on floors nor in the air. The investigators recommended the use of a mix of alloy/mercury as dry as possible. Use of automatic amalgamators or premixed capsules would eliminate the squeezing of the amalgam, a process which caused considerable exposure.
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