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Healthcare Services


Healthcare services maintain or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being, provided by trained and licensed professionals. These services are essential to good health for patients, but they may also expose patients and workers to harmful pollutants. 

See also: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Solvents Phthalates Ethylene Oxide Formaldehyde

What are they?

Dentistry is a branch of medicine that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The oral cavity includes the lips, inside lining of the lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, front two-thirds of the tongue, floor of the mouth below the tongue, and bony roof of the mouth. 

An average dental office is staffed by dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists who provide services such as exams, cleaning, X-rays, fillings, and other necessary dental care.  

Why are they a concern?

Dental workers and patients may be exposed to harmful chemicals. 

What pollutants are of greatest concern and who is at risk?

Dental workers and patients may be exposed to X-ray radiation and harmful chemicals such as:

  • Anesthetic gases, used to prevent pain during surgery and other dental procedures
  • Beryllium, a known carcinogen used to make crowns, bridges, and partial dentures
  • Formaldehyde-resin adhesives
  • Heavy metals, organic solvents, and cleaning products
  • Phthalates, used to make plastic medical devices
  • The risk for patients is significantly lower than for workers, due to less frequent exposure.
National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
  • Radiation Exposure

    Curated links to current consumer health information on the effect of radiation exposure on human health. These English and Spanish web resources include background information; prevention and risk factors; treatments and therapies; related issues; specifics; clinical trials; journal articles; key terms; relevant agencies; targeted resources for children, teenagers, and women; and patient handouts.

Additional Resources
  • Mercury in Health Care (World Health Organization)

    Policy paper that addresses the release of mercury in health care settings, associated occupational health hazards, and the need for waste management strategies at health care facilities.

What are they?

Pharmacies sell over-the-counter drugs, prescription medicines, medical devices, and many personal care and household products. 

Why are they a concern?

Many of the products sold at pharmacies can be hazardous to consumers and family members unless used as instructed and handled with care. In addition, pharmacy employees may be exposed to toxic substances and drugs as part of their work.

What pollutants are of greatest concern and who is at risk?

Hazardous drugs include those used for chemotherapy, antiviral drugs, hormones, and anesthetics. 

Pharmacy workers may face health risks from handling some drugs and from compounding (mixing) medications.

National Library of Medicine Resources and Databases
  • Household Products Database

    Database for household products that includes information on manufacturer, ingredients, potential health effects, and how to handle and dispose of them safely.

Reduce your risk

  • Do you live or work near a hospital?
  • Do you go to a hospital for medical treatment?
  • Do you work in a healthcare facility?
  • Avoid outdoor activities near hospitals to minimize exposure to outdoor air pollution emitted when medical waste is burned .
  • Avoid contact with medical waste.
  • Minimize exposure to hazardous drugs and medication.
  • Avoid unnecessary X-rays, which can expose people to radiation.
  • If you work in a healthcare facility, follow radiation safety practices guidelines.
  • Children should not play near hospitals or healthcare facilities. 
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