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Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2001 May;16(5):514-20.

Beryllium health effects in the era of the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test.

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Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, Colorado, USA.


The beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT) has revolutionized our approach to the diagnosis, screening, and surveillance of beryllium health effects. Based on the development of a beryllium-specific cell-mediated immune response, the BeLPT has allowed us to define early health effects of beryllium, including beryllium sensitization (BeS), and chronic beryllium disease (CBD) at a subclinical stage. The use of this test as a screening tool has improved our understanding of these health effects. From a number of studies it is apparent that BeS precedes CBD and develops after as little as 9 weeks of beryllium exposure. CBD occurs within 3 months and up to 30 years after initial beryllium exposure. Exposure-response variables have been associated with BeS/CBD, including work as a machinist, chemical or metallurgical operator, laboratory technician, work in ceramics or beryllium metal production, and years of beryllium exposure. Recent studies have found BeS and CBD in workplaces in which the majority of exposures were below the 2 microg/m3 OSHA time-weighted average (TWA). Ideally, the BeLPT would be used in surveillance aimed at defining other risk-related processes, determining exposure variables which predict BeS and CBD, and defining the exposure level below which beryllium health effects do not occur. Unfortunately, the BeLPT can result in false negative tests and still requires an invasive procedure, a bronchoscopy, for the definitive diagnosis of CBD. Thus, research is needed to establish new tests to be used alone or in conjunction with the BeLPT to improve our ability to detect early beryllium health effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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