Beryllium is a lightweight, hard metal. It is nonmagnetic, easy to shape, and a good conductor of heat and electricity. Beryllium's many uses include in aerospace parts, semi-conductor chips, spark-resistant tools, nuclear reactor fuel rods, and nuclear weapons. Maintenance, repair, and demolition where beryllium was used can disturb beryllium dust on floors, pipes, and other surfaces. Breathing small amounts of dust or fumes from beryllium or its alloys, ceramics, or salts can cause some people to develop sensitivity to beryllium. This sensitivity is like an allergy. Even exposure to small amounts of beryllium can cause the disease to get worse, and it can continue to get worse even after you are no longer exposed. You may have bumps on your skin or a wound that will not heal until beryllium particles are removed. If you develop an allergy (or sensitization) to beryllium, you could develop chronic beryllium disease (CBD). CBD can be treated, but not cured; sometimes it can kill. CBD is a lung disease, but it can affect the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, kidneys, heart, and skin. Chronic beryllium disease can cause constant coughing, coughing up of blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, night sweats, rapid heart beat, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Less than 1 percent of nuclear construction and maintenance workers exposed to beryllium have developed chronic beryllium disease. In jobs where workers have inhaled the most beryllium - such as, machinists in beryllium operations - 10 to 14 percent of the workers have gotten CBD. CBD can take a few months or 30 years to develop after the first exposure to beryllium; the average is 10 to 15 years. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found that beryllium can cause lung cancer.
Construction; Construction-equipment; Construction-industry; Construction-materials; Construction-workers; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Work-environment; Work-practices; Worker-health; Diseases; Disease-prevention; Beryllium-compounds; Beryllium-disease; Beryllium-poisoning; Hard-metal-disease; Hard-metal-workers; Hard-metals; Sensitization; Allergic-reactions; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Machinists; Cancer; Lung-cancer
Building and Construction Trades Dept., AFL-CIO: CPWR, Suite 1000, 8484 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 2091