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2281. OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE TO BERYLLIUM
Priority: Other Significant. Major status under 5 USC 801 is undetermined.
Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined
Legal Authority: 29 USC 655(b); 29 USC 657
CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: Beryllium is a lightweight metal that is used for nuclear weapons, for atomic energy, and for metal alloys such as beryllium-copper and beryllium-aluminum. The metal alloys are used in dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools, wheelchairs, etc. Beryllium is also used in the ceramics industry. OSHA's current permissible exposure limits for beryllium are: an 8-hour TWA of 2 ug/m3; a 5 ug/m3 ceiling concentration not to be exceeded over a 30-minute period; and a 25 ug/m3 maximum peak exposure never to be exceeded.
In 1977, OSHA proposed to reduce the 8-hour TWA exposure to beryllium from 2 ug/m3 to 1 ug/m3 based on evidence that beryllium caused lung cancer in exposed workers. A hearing followed the proposal, but a final standard was never published. Since the previous OSHA hearing, NIOSH has updated its studies on beryllium exposed workers. The study results again demonstrated a significant excess of lung cancer among exposed workers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that beryllium is a carcinogen in humans (Category I).
In addition to lung cancer, a new OSHA beryllium standard would address chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a fatal disease involving lung fibrosis and other organ toxicity. Based on several recent studies involving workers employed in the beryllium ceramics industry, in beryllium production, and in Department of Energy facilities, there is now evidence that very low level beryllium exposure (less than 0.5 ug/m3) may cause CBD. A new medical surveillance tool is now available that allows for the early detection of workers with CBD prior to any signs of clinical disease or symptoms. Beryllium-sensitized workers convert to CBD at an estimated rate of about 10 percent per year. This "beryllium sensitization" test is being used in clinical studies of current and past exposed workers. Recent study results indicate that between 5 percent and 15 percent of beryllium-exposed workers are sensitized and will eventually develop CBD.
In the past year, OSHA was petitioned to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) by the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers Union (PACE) to protect workers from developing Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) and lung cancer as a result of occupational beryllium exposure. The petition was denied, but the Agency has initiated rulemaking under Section 6(b)(5) to protect beryllium-exposed workers from contracting these diseases.
Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Undetermined
Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Agency Contact: Marthe B. Kent, Acting Director, Directorate of Health Standards Programs, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N3718, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 693-1950
Fax: 202 693-1678
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