In this issue we are presenting a summary of an article on chronic beryllium disease written by Lew Pepper, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). Occupational exposures to beryllium are of great concern as very low-level exposures can cause beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease. Today, exposure to beryllium occurs in aerospace, telecommunications, automotive, and electronics industries. Beryllium exposures also occur in operations in metal machine shops, and in alloy applications, such as gas drilling, jewelry, bicycle frames, and dental appliances. Many studies indicate that the current legal exposure limit is not adequate; therefore there is a great need for awareness, prevention and medical screening among those exposed(1). Under Dr. Pepper's direction, Boston University School of Public Health has received a contract to develop and implement a medical screening and surveillance program for former beryllium exposed workers in Worcester, Massachusetts. This bulletin takes a closer look at the industries targeted by this program, the health effects of workers exposed to beryllium, and the methods of diagnosing chronic beryllium disease. Beryllium disease is one of several occupational lung diseases that are reportable to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Beryllium, which has been used extensively in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons program, is a concern among current and historically exposed workers. Congress recently enacted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000 to provide compensation benefits for DOE weapons workers who developed work-related illnesses due to radiation, beryllium and silica exposure.
Occupational-health; Work-environment; Workers; Occupational-exposure; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Bronchial-asthma; Surveillance-programs; Health-hazards; Worker-health; Occupational-diseases; Health-care; Disease-prevention; Chemical-manufacturing-industry; Chemical-industry-workers; Chemical-factory-workers; Chemical-processing; Chemical-analysis; Employee-exposure; Beryllium-compounds; Beryllium-disease; Beryllium-poisoning
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108