NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals
927Z6RF - Dermal Exposure and Sensitization Risk
Principal Investigator (PI)
Primary Goal Addressed
Secondary Goal Addressed
Attributed to Manufacturing
The purpose of this project is to assess and evaluate relative levels of beryllium skin exposure occurring among workers at beryllium production facilities. This project includes collection of cotton over-gloves for estimating relative skin exposures and personal air samples for estimating inhalation exposures from workers in facilities involved in specific processes that either are or are not associated with increased risk of beryllium sensitization and disease. Upon completion, we will improve understanding and help reduce exposure risk of beryllium sensitization and disease among the one million ever-beryllium-exposed workers in the United States. Information learned will be pertinent to workers exposed to beryllium and other sensitizing agents and to workers, management, and policy makers in the broader metals industries, including hard metal, aluminum refining and smelting, recycling, and nanotechnology.
The objective of the Program "Beryllium and a novel control paradigm" is to understand key risk factors predicting beryllium-related health outcomes so that preventive strategies can be implemented and evaluated. To best address this program objective, this project, Dermal Exposure and Sensitization Risk, was developed in partnership with Brush Wellman Inc. (the largest beryllium producer in the United States). We hypothesize that the skin is an important route of exposure that leads to beryllium sensitization. To begin to address this working hypothesis, this project will test the following specific hypotheses:
1. Beryllium contaminates the hands of workers during the performance of routine work activities.
2. The association between concentrations of beryllium in breathing zones of workers and levels of beryllium on hands of workers is lower than the association between concentrations of beryllium in general area air and levels of beryllium on hands.
3. Levels of beryllium on hands for subgroups of workers, grouped by process, correlate with historical group risk of beryllium sensitization.
To test our hypotheses, we will visit BWI facilities that span all phases of primary beryllium manufacturing, documenting process operating conditions, and collecting samples from processes that (based on epidemiology) confer or do not confer elevated risk of sensitization and disease to gain insights on exposure risk. For hypothesis #1, cotton over-glove samples will be collected using our previously-used sampling technique and analytical method to estimate relative skin exposures. For hypothesis #2, we will collect personal filter cassette samples from the breathing zones of cotton-glove wearing workers to determine levels of inhalation exposure and determine correlation with cotton glove sample results. For hypothesis #3, we will relate indices of potential skin exposure (with and without inhalation exposure estimates) to risk of sensitization within each facility and across facilities by specific production and non-production processes.
From fiscal years 2009 through 2010, products of this research will include peer-reviewed scientific publications; communications at worker, company, and public health meetings; and postings on the NIOSH beryllium web page. Unpublished and published data from this project will be shared as generated with the other Program projects to provide indices of relative skin exposure to: compare with properties of particles that may contact the skin (Project 1); assist in gauging the effectiveness of a comprehensive beryllium protection program (Project 3); plan animal toxicology studies that investigate beryllium skin exposure-response relationships (Project 4), and; contribute to ongoing longitudinal follow-up of worker cohorts to investigate historical risk factors for sensitization and beryllium disease.
This project builds on the previous collaborative work between the NIOSH Beryllium Research Program and Brush Wellman Inc. under the auspices of an existing Memorandum of Understanding. This project is uniquely positioned to be successful because it will involve well-characterized worker populations to investigate an ongoing occupational health risk. Information learned in this study will be pertinent to U.S. workers exposed to sensitizing agents in the workplace. Additionally, our research results will be relevant to the workers, management, and policy makers in the broader metals industries, including hard metal, aluminum refining and smelting, recycling, and nanotechnology.
The long-term impact of this project will be to reduce sensitization among beryllium workers. This strategy for assessing the importance of relative skin exposure to beryllium is directly applicable to the more than 13 million workers in the United States who are potentially exposed to chemicals in contact with the skin. Research results will be relevant to the workers, management, and policy makers in the broader metals industries, including hard metal, aluminum refining and smelting, recycling, and nanotechnology.
To date in FY07 and FY08, field sampling was completed in three different BWI facilities: 1) a beryllium alloy strip and wire finishing facility in Reading, PA, 2) a beryllium alloy service center in Elmhurst IL, and 3) a primary beryllium production facility in Elmore, OH. At Reading, we collected 119 lapel air samples and more than 300 cotton glove samples (January 29-February 9, 2007); we collected an additional 46 lapel air, 99 cotton glove, and 103 surface wipe samples (May 20-25, 2007). In Elmhurst, we collected 22 lapel air, 88 cotton glove, and 62 surface wipe samples (April 22-27, 2007). In Elmore, we collected lapel air, cotton glove, and surface wipe samples from production work areas (July 29-August 10, 2007); additional surface wipe samples (September 17-21, 2007); and air, cotton glove, and surface wipe samples from production support and administrative work areas (May 19-22, 2008).
Regarding samples analysis, a sole-source analytical procurement request was awarded to DataChem Laboratories (Salt Lake City, UT) on May 9, 2008, for the analysis of beryllium in all surface wipe and lapel air samples. The first batch of 200 surface wipe samples was submitted to DataChem for analysis on May 14, 2008. Subsequent batches of 200 samples per week have been submitted to DataChem, with steadily incoming analytical results. The first batch of air samples was submitted to DataChem on June 11, 2008; additional batches will be submitted over the next several weeks. The first batch of cotton glove samples was submitted for analysis to the NIOSH Alice Hamilton Laboratory in Cincinnati, OH, on March 18, 2008. Following determination of an optimal analytical method by NIOSH research chemists, we anticipate that the remainder of the cotton glove samples will be submitted for analysis to the NIOSH contract laboratory (Bureau Veritas North America).
For more than 60 years, a fraction of people exposed to beryllium in the workplace have developed chronic beryllium disease. In our previous study at a Brush Wellman Inc. (BWI) copper-beryllium alloy strip and wire finishing facility, we documented the occurrence of skin exposures among most study participants despite very low concentrations of beryllium in general workplace air (Day et al.  Exposure pathway assessment at a copper-beryllium alloy facility. Ann Occup Hyg 51(1):67-80). Additionally, we demonstrated that, even with the implementation of control measures designed to reduce skin contact with beryllium as part of a comprehensive workplace protection program, measurable levels of beryllium continued to reach the skin of workers in production and production support areas. Our partnership with BWI provides us a continuing opportunity to help them resolve this problem for employees, while creating knowledge that will be of wide use for persons similarly exposed to other sensitizing agents in the workplace.
The project findings will be communicated to health and safety professionals at BWI to improve understanding of relative skin exposures, to correlate indices of skin exposure with inhalation exposures, and to relate indices of skin exposure to sensitization risk. Research results will also be disseminated to other health and safety professionals in manufacturing industries via national and international venues. Improved exposure assessment strategies and data interpretation resulting from this project may be useful information for the Beryllium Consultants Network (over 100 consultants listed with the American Industrial Hygiene Association) and NIOSH staff involved in Health Hazard Evaluations. This project will contribute to the following respiratory disease goals. Intermediate Goal (09PPRDRIG2.4): prevent and reduce beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease. Activity/Output Goal (09PPRDRAOG2.4.1): evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive preventive program that includes reduction of skin exposures at a copper-beryllium alloy in reducing immunological sensitization to beryllium and chronic beryllium disease. Activity/Output Goal (09PPRDRAOG2.4.2): evaluate the effectiveness of a comprehensive preventive program that includes reduction of skin exposures at a beryllium manufacturing facility in reducing immunological sensitization to beryllium and chronic beryllium disease. This project will contribute to manufacturing strategic goal number 5; Reduce the number of respiratory conditions and diseases due to exposures in the manufacturing sector. Project relates to exposure assessment Intermediate Goal 2.5 (09PPEXAIG2.5): Conduct research on dermal absorption and dermal exposure assessment methods. The immune and dermal disease Activity Output Goal 1.1.3 (09PPDRMAOG1.1.3) Develop and validate improved laboratory, clinical and field surveillance methodology for hazard identification, exposure characterization and risk assessment of chemicals that lead to allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis and systemic toxicity as a result of dermal absorption.