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Published on Mar 1, 2017
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to prevent chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and lung cancer in American workers by limiting their exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. The new standards contained in the final rule took effect in March of 2017.
Beryllium is a lightweight and strong metal used in the aerospace, electronics, energy, telecommunications, medical and defense industries. Beryllium and beryllium compounds are important materials, but beryllium is also a highly toxic metal and workers who inhale it are at an increased risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer.
OSHA reports that chronic beryllium disease is a serious pulmonary disease that can cause debilitation or death. Signs and symptoms of CBD can include shortness of breath, an unexplained cough, fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
Lung cancer is associated with occupational exposure to beryllium by inhaling beryllium containing dust, fumes or mist. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists beryllium as a Group 1 carcinogen (causes cancer in humans), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) lists beryllium as a known human carcinogen.
Key provisions of the new rule: • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over 8-hours. • Establishes a new short term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period. • Requires employers to: use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium; provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan; and train workers on beryllium hazards. • Requires employers to make available medical exams to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.
These are just a few things to know about potential occupational exposures to beryllium and OSHA’s new final rule. To learn more about this or other occupational, environmental, air quality, health or safety issues, please visit the websites shown below.