BACKGROUND: Nitrous oxide has a proven clinical efficacy in conscious sedation. At certain environmental concentrations it may pose a health risk to chronically exposed healthcare workers. The present pilot study aims at evaluating the exposure to nitrous oxide of dental ambulatory personnel of a pediatric hospital.
METHODS: A descriptive study design was conducted in two phases: a bibliographic analysis on the environmental safety policies and a gas concentration analysis in the dental ambulatories of a pediatric hospital, detected every 6 months from December 2013 to February 2017 according to law provisions. The surveys were carried out using for gas analysis a photoacoustic spectrometer Innova-B&K "Multi-gas monitor model 1312" and Innova-B&K "Multi-sampler model 1309". The biological analysis and monitoring have been carried out on staff urine.
RESULTS: The analyses were performed during 11 dental outpatient sessions on pediatric patients. All the patients were submitted to the same dental procedures, conservative care and dental extractions. The pediatric patients were 47 (23 males, 24 females; age range 3-17 years; mean age 6,63, SD ± 2,69) for a mean of 4,27 (SD ± 1,49) per session., The mean environmental concentration of nitrous oxide during the sessions was 24.7 ppm (SD ±16,16). A correlation was found between urinary nitrous oxide concentration of dentists (Pearson's correlation 0.786; p = 0.007) and dental assistants urines (Pearson's correlation 0.918; p < 0.001) and environmental concentrations of nitrous oxide. Weak negative correlations were found between age and sex of patients and environmental concentrations of nitrous oxide. The mean values of the biological monitoring data referring to all the outpatient sessions are lower than the reference values foreseen in accordance to the regulations in force on nitrous oxide concentration.
CONCLUSIONS: The mean environmental concentration values recorded in our study are below the limit of 50 ppm considered as a reference point, a value lower than those reported in other similar surveys. The results of the present study provide a contribution to the need to implement technical standards, criteria and system requirements for the dental ambulatories, to date not yet completely defined, and cannot be assimilated to the ones established for the surgical rooms.