HIB 02-04-19 (rev. 05-14-02)
This HIB is not a new standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It is advisory in nature, informational in content, and is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.
The Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine issues Hazard Information Bulletins (HIBs) in accordance with OSHA Instruction CPL 2.65 to provide relevant information regarding unrecognized or misunderstood health and safety hazards, as well as potential hazards associated with particular materials, devices, techniques, and engineering controls. HIBs are initiated based on information provided by the field staff, studies, reports, and concerns expressed by safety and health professionals, employers, employees and their representatives, and the public. HIBs are developed based on a thorough evaluation of available facts and in coordination with appropriate parties.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards. In addition, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm under Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause of the Act. Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take steps to prevent or abate the hazard. However, failure to implement HIB recommendations is not, in itself, a violation of the General Duty Clause. Citations can only be based on standards, regulations, and the General Duty Clause.
Further information about this Bulletin may be obtained by contacting OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support at 202-693-2300.
This Hazard Information Bulletin (HIB) is to inform employers and employees about the risk of dental laboratory technicians developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD). It also provides informa-tion on the ways in which beryllium exposures can be reduced, the type of protective equipment which can be worn to reduce exposure, and on the type of medical surveillance procedures that can be used to identify workers who may be sensitized to beryllium, or who may be in the early stages of CBD.
Chronic Beryllium Disease Caused by Work-ing With Dental Alloys Containing Beryllium: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is concerned that cases of chronic beryllium disease (CBD) are continuing to occur among dental laboratory technicians working with dental alloys containing beryllium.1 CBD is a serious lung disease that can be disabling and even fatal. CBD has been reported among dental laboratory personnel in the past (refs. 1-3), and a recent letter to OSHA indicates that these cases continue to occur (ref. 4).
Workers exposed to beryllium in dental labora-tories are covered by the current OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for beryllium. The OSHA PELs for beryllium allow exposure to 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (2 μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA), between 5 μg/m3 and 25 μg/m3 exposure for up to 30 minutes at a time, and 25 μg/m3 as a maximum peak limit that can never be exceeded. Several studies and reports have ques-tioned whether the current 2 μg/m3 PEL for beryllium in the workplace is adequate to prevent the occurrence of CBD among exposed workers (refs. 5-7, 9-14).
The Bulletin presents a case report of a dental laboratory technician who was recently diagnosed with CBD. It also offers information on the types of engineering controls, work practices, training, personal protective equipment and housekeeping procedures that can be used to reduce beryllium exposure and the risk of CBD to individuals involved in casting, sprue cutting, grinding, polishing and finishing of dental alloys containing beryllium. This Bulletin also provides information about a health surveillance method that can be used to identify beryllium-sensitized individuals.
Beryllium Dental Alloy Exposure and Work Practices: A 53-year-old woman who had worked as a dental laboratory technician for 13 years was diagnosed with CBD in May 2000. From 1987 to 1995, her daily work involved sandblasting beryllium dental alloy, cutting the metal sprue from the alloy with a high-speed grinder, removing the bubbles with a hand-held electric grinder and deburrer, and setting the restoration to make sure it fit the die. While performing this work, the worker wore a surgical-type paper mask. Although a household-type wall vacuum system with movable hoses was available for cleanup, the laboratory was reported to be very dusty.
Beginning in 1996, the woman worked in a different dental laboratory, where her duties included the grinding of porcelain restorations, sandblasting, metal finishing, and polishing restorations with rouge. The dental technician also was involved in clean-up activities, which included using a household-type dry vacuum, emptying the bag daily by taking it outside and shaking it, washing the bag, and hanging it out-side to dry. Shaking the bag produced a dusty cloud. Although this lab used a beryllium dental alloy, it did so much less often than the dental laboratory where this worker had previously been employed. At the second laboratory, work was performed without the use of a mask or hood. Airborne beryllium samples were not taken at either of the dental laboratories where this woman worked.
The Laboratory Technician's Awareness of the Hazards of Beryllium Exposure: The laboratory technician reportedly received no information from her employers concerning the health hazards associ-ated with beryllium exposure. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) requires that manufacturers of hazardous substances such as dental alloys containing beryllium provide a copy of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to their customers along with the beryllium dental product. MSDSs must describe the hazards posed by these substances and ways workers can be protected from exposure.
The Hazard Communication Standard also requires employers using hazardous chemicals to train workers on the hazards to which they are exposed and on how to use and work safely with the product. An MSDS for a dental alloy containing beryllium must indicate the health effects of exposure: (1) that beryllium can cause chronic beryllium disease in exposed workers; (2) that acute beryllium disease, which has symptoms resembling those of pneumonia or bronchitis, may occur as a result of exposure to beryllium. Although this form of beryllium disease is now rare, it has been reported in a single case involv-ing the grinding of dental alloys containing beryllium (ref. 15); and (3) that beryllium is classified as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (ref.16).
Diagnosis of Chronic Beryllium Disease and Confusion with Other Lung Disease: In 1997, the laboratory technician was diagnosed as having sarcoidosis. CBD can be mistaken for sarcoidosis when the diagnosis is based on clinical observation or x-rays alone. The worker was correctly diagnosed with CBD in May 2000. The diagnosis was based on the results of additional diagnostic procedures that identified a positive beryllium lymphocyte prolifera-tion test result and abnormal lung pathology, physi-ology and function. She is currently experiencing symptoms of CBD including dry cough, decreased energy, shortness of breath after walking up one or two flights of stairs or after walking rapidly on a horizontal surface.
Not all dental alloys contain beryllium. Dental laboratory technicians need to inquire about the contents of the alloys they are using. Information about the contents of dental alloys can be found in the MSDSs that accompany these products to the dental laboratory.2 The synonyms and trade names for some beryllium-containing dental alloys and products are listed in the Appendix to this document.
CBD primarily affects the lungs. CBD may occur among dental laboratory technicians when they inhale dust containing beryllium when working on items such as dental crowns, bridges, and partial denture frameworks made from dental alloys contain-ing beryllium. CBD may develop within months after initial exposure to beryllium or may have a very slow onset and not develop until years after exposure to beryllium has occurred. The amount or length of exposure to beryllium necessary to cause a specific individual to develop CBD is not known, but recent information suggests that even short exposures (weeks or months) to levels of beryllium below OSHA's PEL of 2 μg/m3 averaged over an 8-hour day may lead to CBD in some workers (refs. 5-7).
Beryllium Sensitization: Only workers who have become sensitized to beryllium are believed to develop CBD. A sensitized worker is one who has developed an allergic-type reaction to beryllium. Some workers may become sensitized within weeks or months of exposure on the job, while others may not become sensitized until after leaving a job where there has been beryllium exposure, and some work-ers never become sensitized. Beryllium sensitization may be detected through the use of a blood test called the BeLPT, which stands for Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation Test. This test measures how specific white blood cells called lymphocytes react to beryl-lium. Positive test results mean that a worker is sensi-tized. In some cases, persons with CBD do not have a positive blood lymphocyte test, but do have a positive response to beryllium using other diagnostic tests. Sensitization is believed to occur through inhalation of beryllium dusts or fumes. Particles containing beryllium that become lodged under the skin can cause skin lesions and may have the poten-tial to induce sensitization. There are no known symp-toms associated with sensitization to beryllium. It is not known whether everyone who is sensitized will eventually develop CBD, however, between 46% and 100% of surveillance-identified workers with beryl-lium sensitization already have CBD at the time of initial clinical assessment for the disease (refs. 6, 11, 12, 17-21). It is currently estimated that individuals with beryllium sensitization, but without CBD, have about a 10% chance per year of progressing to CBD (ref. 22).
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Beryllium Disease: Workers with CBD may not be aware that they have the disease or may have no or only mild symptoms. Workers with clinical evidence of CBD may have one or more of the following signs or symp-toms: unexplained cough; shortness of breath, espe-cially with activity; fatigue; weight loss or loss of ap-petite; fever; or night sweats. Workers having CBD, but no symptoms can be diagnosed today because of advances in medical testing. Because the disease may develop slowly over a period of many years, workers may have the disease for a long time without know-ing it. The individuals with CBD, who do not have clinical symptoms of disease are generally referred to as having asymptomatic CBD, or subclinical CBD.
Engineering Controls, Work Practices, Personal Protective Equipment And Training: The following measures can be used to reduce the expo-sure of dental laboratory technicians to beryllium:
Engineering controls are the first line of defense in employee protection. Therefore, employers should provide appropriate engineering controls and should train their workers in their use and in work practices to ensure that dental laboratory technicians exposures to beryllium are maintained below the current OSHA PELs. The following engineering controls are recommended:
The following work practices should be used to ensure that the exposures of dental laboratory technicians to beryllium are reduced:
Dusts containing beryllium can be carried into cars and taken home on the shoes, clothing, and hair of workers exposed on the job (ref. 23). CBD cases have occurred among the family members of beryllium-exposed workers. To minimize skin contact and to reduce take-home exposures and beryllium contamination of non-work areas, ensure that protective clothing is worn in areas where dental appliances and restorations containing beryllium alloy are being made. (Protective clothing includes laboratory coats, booties, and other types of garments worn over the employee's skin, hair or personal clothing.) In addition, employers should ensure that employees:
Recent studies suggest that exposure to beryl-lium at levels below OSHA's 2 μg/m3 PEL may have caused CBD in some workers (refs. 5-7, 9-14). There-fore, even in situations where exposures may be below the 2 μg/m3 limit, employers should consider providing their beryllium-exposed workers with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved air-purifying respirators equipped with 100-series filters (either N-, P-, or R-type as applicable) or, where appropriate, powered air-purifying respirators equipped with HEPA filters, particularly when their workers are involved in beryllium-containing alloy fabrication where dust can become airborne. Wearers of respiratory protection must be medically approved to wear a respirator and must be fit tested to ensure that the respirator they use fits properly (see OSHA's Respiratory Protec-tion Standard, 29 CFR 1910.134). [Note: in the case report presented above, the laboratory technician either wore no mask or wore a surgical-type mask. Use of a surgical-type of mask does not provide adequate respiratory protection because it does not seal to the face or effectively filter out fine particles. Use of this type of mask provides a false sense of security and does not protect the workers from exposure to airborne beryllium fume or dust.]
Employers must comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200. Additional information will help employers and employees prevent exposures. The following information includes both requirements and recommendations that will help to protect employ-ees from the adverse health effects associated with beryllium exposure. Employers should ensure that employees exposed to beryllium are trained in and have access to the following information:
Health Surveillance Methods for Beryllium Sensitization and Chronic Beryllium Disease:
Employers should consider sending beryllium-exposed laboratory technicians to a physician or other licensed health-care professional to be evaluated for beryllium sensitization or the presence of CBD. Surveillance for CBD usually begins with a blood test for beryllium sensitization (the BeLPT)4, plus any further evaluation considered appropriate by the health-care professional. With few exceptions, the blood BeLPT will detect a response to beryllium exposure earlier than breathing tests or chest x-rays. A confirmed positive BeLPT result means that the individual is sensitized to beryllium. It does not mean that the worker has or will develop CBD. Some individuals may become anxious after receiving information that they are sensitized to beryllium because of the uncertainty of whether or not they will develop CBD. These individuals may wish to consult a health care provider familiar with CBD for further medical evaluation and counseling.
It is widely believed that beryllium sensitization is necessary before a worker can develop CBD, although in some situations sensitization may not be shown in the blood test. The BeLPT is not routinely done in most medical laboratories; however, a health care professional may order this test from the testing laboratory or one of the medical research centers listed below. If a worker is sent to a health care profes-sional for testing, a copy of this Hazard Information Bulletin should accompany the employee.
If you have repaired or fabricated dental appliances or restorations made from beryllium-containing alloys and have developed any of the symptoms listed below, you should inform your employer and health-care professional of your past beryllium exposure, or seek information from a health-care professional who specializes in occupa-tional lung diseases, to determine whether you may have developed CBD:
If you do not have any of the above symptoms but are concerned that you may have become sensi-tized to beryllium, you should inform your employer and health-care professional that you would like to be tested with the blood BeLPT. Take a copy of this Hazard Information Bulletin with you.
Blood Testing For Beryllium Sensitization: Only the three medical research centers and the one laboratory listed below currently offer the blood test that identifies beryllium-sensitized workers. Any health-care professional with access to an overnight courier service may order this test from one of the facilities listed below. As other research centers and laboratories develop the capacity to test workers' blood for evidence of beryllium sensitiza-tion, OSHA will add them to the list.
Medical Research Centers
Dental Alloys Containing Beryllium
|Nickel alloy||Pent V||Ticonium Premium
100 Denture Alloy
|Argeloy NP||Premium NP||Unitbond|
|Bak-On NP Pre- Solder||Litecast B||Rex V||Vera Bond|
|Biobond II||Microbond 2000||Rexillium III||Vident 550 NI-CR
|Biobond II Ceramic Bonding Alloy||Purcast||Rexillium V||Vitrified V Bond|
|Co-span||Neydium + Be||Rexillium W||Vitron|
|CSN Alloy||Nickel Chromium Alloy||Servalloy||V Premium NP|
Dentsply Regalloy T Partial
Noble Metal Alloy
|Dentsply Regalloy 100 Partial
|NPA I||Tech Star||Will-ceram Lite-cast B|
|Excelalloy||NPX III||Ticon||Will-ceram Lite-cast B|
|Fidelity 1000||Odyssey||Ticonium No. 44||Wiron|
|Formula 40||Omni||Ticonium No. 50|
|Gemini II||Pen V||Ticonium No. 100|
Dental Products Containing Beryllium
A or C Abrasive Grinding Wheels, Sticks and Hones
Notes: (1) The beryllium content of these alloys typically ranges from 0.5-2.0 %. (2) This list includes some, but not all, of the beryllium-containing products that have been used in dental applications in the past. Their current use in not known. (3) Since 2000, Jel-Span has been manufactured without beryllium in the alloy.
1This Bulletin applies to dental laboratories and not to dental offices unless berylliumcontaining dental alloys are fabricated, or modified in dental offices.
2In addition to beryllium, laboratory technicians may also be exposed to other toxic materials such as nickel, chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, gallium, ruthenium, titanium, free silica, gold, silver, and platinum. Although these substances appear to demonstrate less overall toxicity than beryllium, their exposure should be avoided to the extent feasible.
3Filters of local exhaust systems and all vacuum cleaners should be maintained regularly to minimize exposure; filters should be changed in a properly ventilated enclosure such as a labora-tory hood. Personal protective equipment such as gloves, full-body overgarments, and respiratory protection may be necessary.
4A single report in the literature by Brush Wellman, Inc. researchers (ref. 17) concludes that the BeLPT does not meet the criteria for a screening test, but is useful for a disease surveillance tool. In this report, 46% of surveillance-identified workers with sensitization had CBD at initial clinical assessment. In other studies, 49-100% of surveillance-identified sensitized workers had CBD at initial clinical assessment for the disease (refs. 6, 11, 12, 18-21).
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