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Monitoring For Beryllium Disease


Candidates for Monitoring

OSHA personnel who have participated on inspections of industries whose Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code is on the list of industries in which beryllium is known to be used will be offered the opportunity to undergo beryllium medical monitoring.

When notified by your manager as being at risk, you should consider whether or not you recall being in facilities where beryllium was used, the duration and frequency with which you participated in such inspections, what you remember or can research about the levels of beryllium sampling and whether you remember any breaches of the integrity of personal protective equipment during those inspections.

The longer and more frequent the inspections in which you took part involving facilities where beryllium was used and the more your concern about whether personal protective equipment used was adequate, the more you might consider undergoing monitoring for sensitization to beryllium and an increased risk of Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD).

Another reason to consider participating in the monitoring program is if you are experiencing symptoms that may be consistent with CBD such as chronic cough, shortness of breath on exertion, fatigue and unexplained weight loss.

Monitoring Procedures

If you are eligible for monitoring and choose to participate, you will be offered a special blood test.

The blood sample for the test will be taken at a facility near your duty station whenever possible. OSHA will pay the cost of the testing and your travel expenses to and from the clinic. The blood test, called a Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation Test (BeLPT), is used to identify those at risk of developing Chronic Beryllium Disease. The blood is drawn from a vein in your arm and sent to one of the few laboratories in the United States killed in performing this test. The BeLPLT examines how a type of disease-fighting blood cell in our bodies -- called lymphocytes --- react to beryllium. If the BeLPT appears to be "abnormal," you will be asked to have a second blood sample drawn. The second sample will be tested to see if it confirms the results of the first test. This is done because this test can be difficult to interpret and the doctors want to be sure that no errors are made.

You will be notified of the results of the BeLPT. If the BeLPT determines that you have become sensitized to beryllium, you have a higher risk of getting Chronic Beryllium Disease. You may wish to pursue further medical evaluation and additional testing. The brochure Diagnostic Work-Up for Chronic Beryllium Disease discusses additional tests that your doctor(s) may recommend if you are sensitized to beryllium and you elect to have further medical evaluation.

No OSHA Personnel Diagnosed with Chronic Beryllium Disease

To the best of our knowledge, no OSHA personnel have Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD).

In September 2000, OSHA asked the Department of Labor's Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) to tell us how many people in OSHA were receiving benefits for disability due to a diagnosis of CBD. OWCP reports that their records revealed no current, active claims by any OSHA personnel for a diagnosis of CBD. OWCP's search included records of all OSHA personnel who are currently receiving wage replacement benefits as a result of a work-related disability.

Also, the staff of OSHA's Office of Occupational Medicine, who review the Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) Medical Examinations, are not aware of any cases of CBD among OSHA personnel who participate in the CSHO Medical Examination Program.

It is possible, however, that with the implementation of a monitoring program for beryllium sensitization that some previously unrecognized cases or Chronic Beryllium Disease will be identified in OSHA employees.

Chronic Beryllium Disease occurs only in people who have been exposed to beryllium, so most primary care healthcare providers have not had the opportunity to treat individuals with CBD. For this reason, you may wish to consult a health care provider who is familiar with Chromic Beryllium Disease. Be sure to check if your medical insurance covers any health care provider visits that you schedule, although you may be eligible for medical coverage under the Workers' Compensation Program if you are sensitized to beryllium or if you are diagnosed with Chromic Beryllium Disease.

Most exposures to beryllium occur in the workplace. However, there are documented cases in which beryllium-sensitization and/or Chronic Beryllium Disease have occurred in persons with no known occupational exposure to beryllium.

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