The risk of occupational human papillomavirus (HPV) transmission from patient to medical personnel during laser vaporization procedures remains controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the risk of HPV transmission from the patient to the protective surgical masks, gloves and oral mucosa of medical personnel during the treatment of laryngeal papillomas and genital warts. The study involved five male patients scheduled for the surgical treatment of laryngeal papillomas, and five male patients undergoing carbon dioxide (CO(2)) laser treatment for urethral warts. Oral mucosa specimens were obtained from the study patients and the employees pre- and postoperatively. Samples were collected from the HPV-infected patient tissue, and from the surgical masks and gloves used by the employees. A total of 120 samples were analyzed for the presence of HPV DNA by PCR, using the degenerated MY09/11/HMB01 primers. After the papilloma procedures, the surgeons' gloves tested HPV positive in one of the five cases and those of the surgical nurse in three of the five cases. After the treatment of genital warts, HPV DNA corresponding to the patient tissue specimens was present in all the samples obtained from the surgical gloves of the operators. All oral mucosa samples obtained from 18 different employees tested HPV negative, as did the surgical mask specimens. According to our study, HPV may contaminate protective equipment, most of all surgical gloves, but transmission of HPV DNA to medical personnel is unlikely to occur provided that protective surgical gloves and masks are applied and disposed of properly.