Posted by: Eco-Dentistry Association | March 22, 2012

DANGER: Read Your Labels!


If you’re like many of us, you’re reading the labels on everything from snack crackers to face creams.  But are we bringing this same critical eye to our dental offices?

As we work with practices committed to making their offices as environmentally sound as possible, an area of challenge for some is our recommendation that they stop using cold sterile solutions.  The essential ingredient in dental office cold sterile solutions is glutaraldehyde, which OSHA labels a “toxic chemical.”  And with good reason; here’s an excerpt from the MSDS (the Material Safety Data Sheet) for glutaraldehyde:

                                                                         “DANGER: CORROSIVE!  Causes irreversible eye damage and skin burns. DO NOT get in eyes, on skin or on clothing.  Protect eyes by wearing goggles or face shield.  Protect skin by wearing protective gloves and protective clothing.  Remove protective clothing and wash clothing before reuse.”

The sad truth is that none of the offices we’ve encountered are following these requirements for safe handling of this material.

We’re most concerned about the horror stories we’ve heard.  Assistants who have told us they put their ungloved hands into cold sterile solutions for years, believing it must be “clean” because it is a sterilizing solution.  Or the hygienist who had to leave a career she loved after developing glutaraldehyde-induced asthma (a condition specially mentioned by OSHA as a long-term effect of exposure to the substance).

It doesn’t have to be this way.  The fact is that just about everything offices have been using glutaraldehyde for can and should be steam autoclaved, including bite blocks and burrs.  If your office is still using this stuff, please consider alternatives.  Check the EDA on-line product guide for reference to ultrasonic solutions we have evaluated for safety and efficacy as well the surface disinfectants that will ensure proper infection control without harming one of dentistry’s most precious assets: the health of our dental teams.

Not sure if you’re exposed to toxins in your dental practice? Take our survey: Are You Exposed To Toxins in the Workplace?

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