Take notice: Recently, OSHA updated their requirements for dental offices and laboratories with regards to Silica and Beryllium dust. Both are common ingredients of dental materials. The greatest take away from this article is making sure you check your labels and SDS sheets for Beryllium & Silica additives in your lab products. Switch to non-Beryllium & non-Silica containing products and take proper precautions for a throughout clean up. Now, let’s dig deeper into this topic…
Why the concern over these (2) elements?
Over multiple year studies, dental labs have been found to have a higher occurrence of lung cancers and heavy metal poisoning, not only in the employees but also their family members at home. The tasks that are associated with this increased risk of beryllium and silicate exposure are casting, sandblasting, grinding porcelain, and cleaning/maintenance processes. The main culprit is the tasks is the materials used, they contain beryllium and silica dust. The particles are 1000x smaller than a grain of sand, allowing for them to become airborne and inhaled very easily. Poor ventilation, respiratory protection, and barrier PPE increase the risk of inhalation. This fine particulate dust also settles on our uniforms, which if brought home, is then inhaled by family members. This significantly increases our family member’s potential to develop respiratory issues, cancers, and chronic health issues. OSHA has implemented regulations that are aimed at protecting dental lab employees and the secondary exposure victims. These regulations are coming under stricter enforcement measures within dental labs and adjacent dental practices. For more information on this please visit https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/beryllium/index.html, this outlines the OSHA findings to include how family members are affected by respirable silica and beryllium dust.
The final rule was published in June of 2017 after a few months delay by the current presidential administration. However, compliance is mandatory and will be rolled out for enforcement in the very near future. The timeline is as follows:
General Industry and Maritime
Comply with all obligations of the standard, except the action level trigger for medical surveillance
June 23, 2018
Offer medical examinations to employees exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year
June 23, 2018
Offer medical examinations to employees exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days a year
June 23, 2020
The time is NOW, to begin implementing programs to reduce or eliminate exposures! You can be sure that dental practices and labs (that have exposure potential) will be audited very heavily. Primarily because these issues not only affect those directly involved but also second-hand exposures are very likely as well. An excellent resource that breaks this down even further is at http://news.nilfiskcfm.com/2016/08/silica-dust-glance-answers-7-faq-oshas-new-rule/.
Without proper respiratory protection, the particles are inhaled into the lungs where they cause scar tissue to build up, reducing the lung’s ability to function. This is a condition known as Silicosis and along with chronic heavy metal exposure and poisoning (from the beryllium used in the materials). This condition can lead to kidney damage, lung cancer, and tuberculosis. Silicosis is an incurable disease that will cause chronic respiratory issues for life. Even if the exposure is stopped, Silicosis can, and usually does get worse. Silicosis is a preventable condition through the use of exposure controls, ventilation systems, and appropriate PPE.
Precautions & Exposure Controls…
How do we protect ourselves in regards to silicates and beryllium? The most effective method of control is through substitution. If we can eliminate materials that contain crystalline silicates and beryllium for sandblasting, then the main source of silicosis will no longer be present. A common replacement is aluminum oxide, however, there are many acceptable replacements available. If substitution is an option or not, focusing on ventilation at the production source of grinding is always a good idea. And this is a Best Practice when crystalline silicates and beryllium are in use. With an effective ventilation system in place, any dust that becomes airborne is evacuated before it is inhaled or caught on surfaces. In addition to appropriate ventilation, respirators are also required in case any stray dust is not captured. Respirators require proper FIT testing programs to be in place, either by a qualified member of the team or outsourced to a third party (approved testing methods are outlined by OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/federalregister/2003-06-06-0 ). At a minimum, the filters on properly fitting air-purifying respirators must be N-100 type as defined in CFR 42 Part 84.179.
Proper Clean-Up, Disposal & Housekeeping Procedures…
In addition to the above control methods, some specific housekeeping procedures will help reduce the chances of exposure. Wet mopping ( with disposable mop-heads), wet wiping, or vacuuming with a HEPA filter is highly recommended to keep dust from becoming airborne. DO NOT use a compressed air duster, this will significantly increase the airborne particulates in both quantity and trajectory. Always be sure to double-bag disposable-mop heads and wet wipes into sealed plastic zip-lock bags and dispose of this waste in an exterior trash container. When these items dry, the particulate matter can be reintroduced into the air. Best to get them isolated and taken outside of the workplace.
Awareness & Action…
With the increased awareness of respirable silicate dangers in regards to dental settings, we can develop protocols and programs to decrease the exposure. Make sure to:
- Check your lab products, replace all crystalline silicates and beryllium continuing products
- Replace with non-Beryllium & non-Silica containing ingredients
- Purchase proper ventilation safety stations
- Wear proper personal protective equipment (especially respirators)
- Never eat or drink in the dental lab area
- Implement proper wet- clean-up with disposable wipes, zip-lock bag and isolate these items into exterior trash immediately
Most importantly, we can help to ensure all members of our dental teams, and their families, have a safe work environment and continued quality of life.
Provided by Dental Enhancements, Inc:
Gabriel Muller USAF TSgt (Ret.), BA, NREMT, COHC
Heidi Muller SSgt USAF, EFDA BS
Jill Obrochta RDH BS
For more information contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some additional sources of information pertaining to silicates and beryllium: