Researchers look for Organic Contaminants in Dental Wastewater

By Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio 

As part of an ongoing effort to improve environmental stewardship and compliance, the Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio (NAMRU-SA) is studying the performance and efficiency of the Navy-patented chairside dental wastewater filtering system with a special focus on accumulation of organic chemical contaminants, including Bisphenol A (BPA).

Cmdr. David Leal (right), head of the Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio (NAMRU-SA) Biomaterial and Environmental Surveillance Team observes as Dr. Yoon Hwang demonstrates the features of LC/MS to detect BPA in dental wastewater. (Photo courtesy of NAMRU-SA)
Cmdr. David Leal (right), head of the Naval Medical Research Unit-San Antonio (NAMRU-SA) Biomaterial and Environmental Surveillance Team observes as Dr. Yoon Hwang demonstrates the features of LC/MS to detect BPA in dental wastewater. (Photo courtesy of NAMRU-SA)

BPA is a synthetic compound included in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, and is found in many dental composites including resin cements and some dental pit and fissure sealants.

 “The placement and removal of dental restorations may result in the release of BPA and other organic chemical contaminants into the wastewater stream where the environmental impact is uncertain,” said. Cmdr.  David Leal, head of the Biomaterial and Environmental Surveillance team.

According to Leal and his team, there is limited research in the release of organic chemical contaminants generated by placement and removal of dental resin restorations into dental wastewater. 

The efficiency of the Navy’s chairside dental wastewater polypropylene filter will be tested for its ability to remove BPA and other organic contaminants.

“This filtration device already efficiently removes ninety-five percent of mercury,” said Leal. 

Contaminant levels from filter extracts will be quantified using Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry, a highly sensitive, sophisticated analytical technique which combines the separation capabilities of liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry analysis capabilities.

 “This research will further enhance the development of better engineered filtration models to alleviate potential organic environmental contaminants, putting NAMRU-SA at the forefront of global environmental conservation initiatives,” said Leal. 

This project will enhance scientific capabilities and engineering practices conducted at NAMRU-SA, while fostering major contributions to the health and safety of our Sailors and Marines.