Lead Apron Contamination Study

February 6, 2015

Investigators: Dr. Bruce Paster & Dr. Hatice Hasturk

The Forsyth Institute Cambridge, MA 02142

Draft Final Report 6 February 2015

Executive Summary

X-ray protective aprons can be a source of bacterial contamination. The objective of this proposal was to determine bacterial contamination of X-ray protective aprons that are routinely used in dental clinics. Bacterial strains were isolated from the neck collar areas of 5 different X-ray protective aprons. Bacterial species were identified using molecular means.


Viable aerobic and anaerobic bacteria contaminate the inside and outside areas of the neck collars of X-ray protective aprons. Species identified are typical isolates from the skin, the oral cavity and the environment. Patients or clinicians may be at risk for transmission of potentially harmful bacterial contaminants


This study was designed to determine bacterial contamination of X-ray protective aprons that are used in dental clinics.


Study Design:The neck collars of 5 aprons were sampled for the presence of viable bacteria. Sampling was done at the end of a regular clinic day at the Forsyth Institute dental clinics prior to daily decontamination procedures.

Sampling and Bacterial Identification

Sterile cotton swabs were dipped in sterile 0.01M TRIS buffer. Excess buffer was removed. Wet swabs were used to sample the neck collars. Two areas of the collars were sampled: 1) The entire inside surface (surface that comes in contact with patient’s neck or skin) of the collar (termed “Inside”) and 2) the area outside of the neck collar (termed “Outside”).

Immediately after sampling each site, swabs were streaked onto 2 Blood Agar media plates. One plate was incubated aerobically for 3 days and the other plate anaerobically for 7 days at 37 C. Representative bacterial colonies that developed were identified using 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis using a commercially-available service (GENEWIZ, Boston, MA). Resultant sequences were analyzed using BLAST vs the HOMD database ( or NCBI database. Such analyses are standard in our laboratories.


Many isolates were obtained from all apron surfaces tested. The protocol was not set up for enumeration, but the number of resultant colonies per swab ranged from 10 to hundreds per plate as shown in Figure 1.

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