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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2005 Jun;2(6):302-6.

Exposure to volatile methacrylates in dental personnel.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Academy, Göteborg, Sweden.


Dental personnel are exposed to acrylates due to the acrylic resin-based composites and bonding agents used in fillings. It is well known that these compounds can cause contact allergy in dental personnel. However, in the 1990s, reports emerged on asthma also caused by methacrylates. The main volatile acrylates in dentistry are 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate. The aim of this study was to quantify the exposure to these acrylates in Swedish dental personnel. We studied the exposure to 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and methyl methacrylate in five randomly selected public dental clinics and at the Faculty of Odontology at Göteborg University. In total, 21 whole-day and 46 task-specific short-term (1-18 min) measurements were performed. The median 8-hour time-weighted averages were 2.5 microg/m3 (dentists) and 2.9 microg/m3 (dental nurses) for 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate, and 0.8 microg/m3 (dentists) and 0.3 microg/m3 (dental nurses) for methyl methacrylate. The maximum short-term exposure levels were 79 microg/m3 for 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate and 15 microg/m3 for methyl methacrylate, similar in dentists and dental nurses. The observed levels are much lower than in complete denture fabrication. We found only one previous study in dentistry and it showed similar results (though it reported short-term measurements only). Irritant effects would not be expected in healthy people at these levels. Nevertheless, occupational respiratory diseases due to methacrylates may occur in dental personnel, and improvements in the handling of these chemicals in dentistry are warranted. This includes better vials for the bonding agents and avoiding evaporation from discarded materials.

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