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Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2001 May;16(5):559-67.

Introduction to beryllium: uses, regulatory history, and disease.

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Brush Wellman Inc, USA.


Beryllium is an ubiquitous element in the environment, and it has many commercial applications. Because of its strength, electrical and thermal conductivity, corrosion resistance, and nuclear properties, beryllium products are used in the aerospace, automotive, energy, medical, and electronics industries. What eventually came to be known as chronic beryllium disease (CBD) was first identified in the 1940s, when a cluster of cases was observed in workers from the fluorescent light industry. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission recommended the first 8-hour occupational exposure limit (OEL) for beryllium of 2.0 microg/m3 in 1949, which was later reviewed and accepted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the vast majority of countries and standard-setting bodies worldwide. The 2.0 microg/m3 standard has been in use by the beryllium industry for more than 50 years and has been considered adequate to protect workers against clinical CBD. Recently, improved diagnostic techniques, including immunological testing and safer bronchoscopy, have enhanced our ability to identify subclinical CBD cases that would have formerly remained unidentified. Some recent epidemiological studies have suggested that some workers may develop CBD at exposures less than 2.0 microg/m3. ACGIH is currently reevaluating the adequacy of the current 2.0 microg/m3 guideline, and a plethora of research initiatives are under way to provide a better understanding of the cause of CBD. The research is focusing on the risk factors and exposure metrics that could be associated with CBD, as well as on efforts to better characterize the natural history of CBD. There is growing evidence that particle size and chemical form may be important factors that influence the risk of developing CBD. These research efforts are expected to provide data that will help identify a scientifically based OEL that will protect workers against CBD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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