Reduction in operatory mercury levels after contamination or amalgam removal.

J. L. Ferracane, J. H. Engle, T. Okabe, J. C. Mitchem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The threshold limit value (TLV) for occupational exposure to mercury can be exceeded in the dental operatory after a contamination event or during certain dental procedures. The objective of this study was to determine the time required for the mercury vapor levels to return to baseline in both non-ventilated and ventilated operatories after they had been contaminated with mercury to the TLV of 0.050 mg/m3; and to evaluate the efficiency of an activated charcoal filtering device for removing mercury vapor. The results showed that even in a poorly ventilated operatory, the mercury vapor level returned to background within 20-30 minutes after a contamination, and within 10-20 minutes when the operatory was ventilated. The filtering device reduced the level of mercury vapor by approximately 25% during a continuous contamination event, but did not clear the operatory faster than normal settling after a limited source contamination. The filter caused a significant reduction in mercury in the breathing zones of the patient and dentist during and after amalgam removal, but did not eliminate the exposure. This study demonstrated the difficulty in contaminating an operatory with mercury vapor and confirmed the limited time mercury remains airborne, presumably due to its density and affinity for surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-107
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of dentistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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