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Risks of beryllium disease related to work processes at a metal, alloy, and oxide production plant.

Kreiss K; Mroz MM; Zhen B; Wiedemann H; Barna B
Occup Environ Med 1997 Aug; 54(8):605-612
The association between beryllium (7440417) and risk of beryllium disease at a factory that produced beryllium for the ceramics industry was investigated. All 646 active employees at the factory producing beryllium metal, alloys, and beryllium-oxide (1304569) participated in the study. The subjects completed a questionnaire to obtain information on demographics, work history, and medical history. Blood samples were collected for performing the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation (BeLP) test to determine the presence or absence of beryllium sensitization. Subjects with confirmed abnormal BeLP results or with one abnormal result and an indeterminate result were offered a clinical evaluation that included a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) BeLP test and a transbronchial biopsy. Beryllium disease was diagnosed if granulomas were found in the lung biopsy in the presence of beryllium sensitization or by an abnormal BeLP test result. Historical industrial hygiene beryllium monitoring data for the period 1980 to 1993 were reviewed. Daily weighted average (DWA) beryllium exposures were estimated from the data. About 85% of the employees were male with a mean age of 43.9 years. The BeLP test was performed on 627 subjects; the other five employees had been diagnosed previously with beryllium disease. Fifty subjects had an abnormal BeLP test. Forty seven were evaluated further with 24 diagnosed later. Thus the beryllium disease prevalence rate was 4.6%. Employees who had previously worked in the ceramics department or who were working in the pebble factory had the highest prevalence of beryllium disease, 9.0 and 4.6%, respectively. The prevalence rate of beryllium disease in other factory workers was 1.3%. Logistic regression analysis confirmed associations between work in ceramics and in the pebble factory and beryllium disease risk, odds ratios of 4.39 and 23.48, respectively. DWA beryllium exposures ranged from 0.05 to 63.11 micrograms per cubic meter. The highest DWA exposures were not associated with ceramics or pebble factory work, but with alloy arc furnace and furnace rebuilding work. The authors conclude that the risk of beryllium disease in beryllium exposed workers is associated with specific jobs.
NIOSH-Author; Ceramic-materials; Ceramics-industry; Beryllium-disease; Epidemiology; Metal-industry-workers; Respiratory-system-disorders; Chemical-hypersensitivity; Immunological-tests; Author Keywords: beryllium; occupational lung disease; lymphocyte proliferation test; surveillance; exposure response
Dr K Kreiss, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1095 Willowdale Road, MS-234, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA
7440-41-7; 1304-56-9
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Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division