Beryllium: an etiologic agent in the induction of lung cancer, nonneoplastic respiratory disease, and heart disease among industrially exposed workers.
The cause specific mortality of employees exposed to beryllium (7440417) at a production facility in Pennsylvania was investigated. The population included 3,055 White males who were employed sometime between January 1, 1942 and September, 1968. During this time, a total of 875 deaths occurred among the study cohort, compared to 816.86 expected deaths in the general male population. Significant excess mortality rates among the workers occurred for respiratory system and heart diseases. There was an excess lung cancer mortality rate, but this could not be related to age, chance, self selection, study group selection, exposure to other agents, or place of residence. Cigarette smoking habits alone did not explain the lung cancer excess. The effect of other occupational exposures could not be assessed because lifetime employment histories of cohort members were unavailable. The authors note that it was unlikely that undefined occupational exposures could account for the excess of lung cancer mortality and conclude that beryllium is probably carcinogenic to man.