Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis among Dental Professionals
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has discovered a unique cluster of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis among dental professionals at a specialty clinic in Virginia. The discovery marked the first time that IPF, a chronic, progressive lung disease, has been associated with dental professionals. While the causes of IPF are unknown, occupational exposures to dust, wood dust, and metal dust have been suggested as possible contributing factors.  At the time of CDC’s investigation in April 2016, all but two of the dental workers treated at the Virginia clinic were deceased. One of the living patients reported polishing dental appliances and preparing amalgams and impressions without respiratory protection, which could have exposed the patient to silica, polyvinyl siloxane, alginate, and other compounds with known or potential respiratory toxicity. The patient had worked in dentistry for forty years. Information from the CDC report appears below.
From “Dental Personnel Treated for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis at a Tertiary Care Center — Virginia, 2000–2015”:
“Dentists and other dental personnel experience unique occupational exposures, including exposure to infectious organisms, dusts, gases, and fumes. It is possible that occupational exposures contributed to this cluster.”
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Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
: “
Dental Personnel Treated for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis at a Tertiary Care Center — Virginia, 2000–2015
” (March 2018).
In August, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that a student intern and a researcher at Oak Ridge Associated Universities had devised an experiment to replicate the McCluskey incident in order to study the effects of radiation on the body. By irradiating vials of their own blood for different lengths of time, the researchers hope to generate data that clinicians and first responders can refer to following an exposure incident.

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