Mercury Release from a Dental Aspirator

Clive Stonehouse, Alan P Newman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Objective: To investigate the release of mercury vapour from a dental aspirator which vented its waste air through its base directly into the surgery environment. Methodology: Mercury vapour in air concentrations were measured at the breathing zone ofthe dentist during continuous operation of the aspirator. Further series of mercury vapour measurements taken at the aspirator exhaust vent were carried out to determine the sources of mercury vapour from this particular device.
    Results: At the dentist's breathing zone, mercury vapour concentrations of ten times the current occupational exposure limit of 25 g/m3 were recorded after 20 minutes of continuous aspirator operation. A build up of amalgam contamination within the internal corrugated tubing of the aspirator was found to be the main source of mercury vapour emissions followed by particulate amalgam trapped within the vacuum motor. As the vacuum motor heated up with run time, mercury vapour emissions increased. It was found that the bacterial air exhaust filter (designed to clean the contaminated waste air entering the surgery)offered no protection to mercury vapour. In this case the filter trapped particulate amalgam which contributed to further mercury vapour contamination as high volume air was ventedthrough it.
    Conclusion: It is not known how many dental aspirators are in use that vent their waste air directly into the surgery or if this aspirator is representative of others in existence. The safety of dental aspirating systems with regard to mercury vapour exposure requires further investigation

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)558-560
    Number of pages3
    JournalBritish Dental Journal
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2001


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