Study of indoor air mercury pollution at dental teaching institutions, hospitals and clinics resulting from mercury amalgam use in dentistry

Study of indoor air mercury pollution at dental teaching institutions, hospitals and clinics resulting from mercury amalgam use in dentistry

Mercury has been used in dental amalgams for over 160 years. Dental amalgams are widely done because it’s inexpensive, ease of use, best settling material and most importantly it is resin free which make it less allergic than composite fillings. Mercury poses risks to environment and human health, especially the health of children. In September, 2012, IUCN World Conservation Congress called upon government representatives of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to support a legally binding treaty on Mercury with an objective to protect human health and the environment from hazardous and toxic Mercury. In January, 2013, 140 countries in Geneva adopted a ground-breaking, world’s first legally binding treaty on mercury, now called “Minamata Convention on Mercury” limiting the use and emission of health-hazardous mercury.

A number of studies at dental sites in many countries have been carried out and reported. The present paper describes and discusses findings of some recent investigations on indoor mercury levels carried out at dental sites in five main cities of Pakistan and six other countries (Armenia; Cote D'Ivoire; Lebanon; Morocco; Philippines and Tanzania).

The indoor mercury vapors levels at these sites exceed the permissible limit, recommended for safe physical and mental health. At these sites, public in general and the medical, 14 paramedical staff and vulnerable population in particular, are at most serious health risk, resulting from exposure to toxic and hazardous mercury. The study also showes general unawareness regarding appropriate handling of mercury/mercury amalgam, mercury containing wastes, improper and inadequate ventilation system and lack of awareness regarding health hazards of mercury to human health and its impact on the environment. The main reasons for the observed elevated levels of mercury in air at OPD (operative dentistry), adjacent corridors and the surrounding air, at some of the visited sites, was careless use of mercury/mercury amalgam and inappropriate mercury/mercury amalgam waste management.

The study recommends that the use of health hazardous mercury to be banned through signing and ratifying the Minamata Convention on mercury (2013) by the national governments of the world at the earliest time possible.

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