WDHB's mobile dental units cleared of formaldehyde contamination

16 July 2014
The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) confirmed today the ceiling tiles in its five mobile dental units are not producing formaldehyde fumes, and dental therapists working in the units have not had their safety compromised.
A report released this month by chemical risk management company Chemsafety says formaldehyde fumes in Whanganui’s mobile dental units had measured at levels below the World Health Organisation (WHO) non-occupational exposure guideline and, Workplace Exposure Standards, making them unlikely to present a health hazard.
The WDHB took preventative action in mid-May, after being informed the week before that concentrations of airborne formaldehyde had been discovered in a Canterbury mobile dental clinic.
At the time, Medical Officer of Health Patrick O’Connor said the WDHB had been following advice given to Canterbury DHB. And he was confident the health risk to staff and patients would be very low “given that formaldehyde is found in a number of household products including carpets, upholstery, clothing, wet strength paper towels and MDF building board”.
The five mobile dental units positioned on site in schools around the WDHB district were assessed one at a time.
During the past two months, WDHB dental health manager Barbara Dewson has met with dental staff to provide them with updates and support, as required.
Dr O’Connor said today the Chemsafety report had confirmed his belief that Whanganui’s dental staff and their patients were never at risk, “but to have this confirmed is important”.