Several occupations are known for a high risk of asbestos exposure — pipefitters, mechanics, shipyard works and demolition crews just to name a few. A new study shows the potential risk dental industry workers have for developing malignant mesothelioma, though their profession is not usually associated with asbestos.
The Italian study highlights, according to Surviving Mesothelioma, four dental lab technicians and one spouse that contracted pleural mesothelioma due to the asbestos used in making dental prostheses. Previously, only one case of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in the dental industry had ever been reported in the country.
Asbestos was once prominently used in manufacturing and construction due to its flexibility and heat resistance. In dentistry, it was used as a binder in periodontal dressings and as a lining material for casting rings and crucibles. It is now a known human carcinogen and banned in more than 50 countries around the world. However, asbestos is still commonly used in some processes and materials — or people were unfortunately exposed while it was still in common usage. Many asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma, have a long latency period and are diagnosed decades after exposure. Of the four cases in the study, three men had been working as dental laboratory technicians, with asbestos exposure for 10, 34, and 4 years, and one wife had been helping her husband manufacture dental prostheses for 30 years.
“We confirm the association of malignant mesothelioma with dental technician work,” the study concludes. “Dental technicians suffering from mesothelioma should be questioned about past occupational asbestos exposure.”