Chisasibi Hospital was briefly evacuated of patients and staff July 16 after a chemical spill in the dental unit. Three hundred and fifty millilitres of Dentsply repair liquid, which contains a substance called methyl methacrylate monomer, was accidentally released.

Chisasibi Hospital’s Dr. Eduardo Kalaydjian made a request to Dentsply Prosthetics, the manufacturer of the product, to find out the level of toxicity. The reply says in part: “This substance is very aromatic; a very small amount produces a very strong etherlike aroma which can persist for some time.” It went on to say: “Despite the strong odor, there is no potential hazard once the cleanup has occurred.”

“The orthodontist scheduled to come in the next day was still able to do his work once they aired out the room,” said James Bobbish, the Executive Director of the Cree Health Board.

The cleanup of the substance can be delicate because it is flammable. It has also been known to cause headaches, eye irritation, and breathing problems. “They looked at about 30 patients and nonpatients in the hospital that day. Some people vomited, but no one was seriously affected,” he said.

This is not the first time an incident like this has happened. “According to the Chief of Dentistry, it [the spill] is not an infrequent occurrence,” said Bobbish.