NIOSH Publishes Beryllium Alert

The document explains in English and Spanish what workers and employers should do to prevent sensitization and diseases related to beryllium exposure.

NIOSH has published a new Alert devoted to beryllium. Titled "Preventing Sensitization and Disease from Beryllium Exposure," the document warns that cases of beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease have been reported from exposures below the current OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of air and the current NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 0.5 μg/m3. A safe exposure limit for beryllium has not been determined, it says.

Workers have been studied who were exposed to beryllium dust, fumes, or mists -- it is both a respiratory and a skin hazard -- in industries including nuclear weapons production, ceramics, mining, ore milling, precision machining, construction, and aluminum smelting, according to the document.

"Workers in various sectors of the beryllium industry are at risk of developing serious respiratory disease following exposure to beryllium," it states. "More action is needed to (1) identify workers exposed to beryllium who may not know that they are exposed, (2) improve protective measures for exposed workers, (3) reduce/minimize both overall exposures and, when possible, the number of exposed workers, (4) educate workers about the hazards of working with beryllium, (5) determine the characteristics of exposures (e.g., particle size, shape, surface area, and chemical form) that are associated with increased risk, and (6) identify industrial and occupational sectors that use beryllium and target them for prevention efforts."

The document explains in English and Spanish what workers and employers should do to prevent sensitization and diseases related to beryllium exposure, discussing housekeeping, respiratory protection, PPE, HEPA-filtered vacuums, medical surveillance, and more.

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