Unified Agenda - Table of Contents|
2026. • 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: Not yet determined
Legal Deadline: None
Abstract: Beryllium is a lightweight metal that is used for nuclear weapons, for atomic energy, for metal alloys such as beryllium-copper and beryllium-aluminum. The metal alloys are found in sectors for dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools, wheel chairs, etc. Beryllium is also used in the ceramics industry. The 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; 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 demonstrate a significant excess of lung cancer among exposed workers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has concluded that beryllium is a lung carcinogen to humans.
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 no evidence that very low level beryllium exposure (less than 0.5 ug/ m3) may cause CBD. A recent (1997) study from Japan concludes that the level necessary to protect workers from developing CDB cannot exceed 0.01 ug/m3. 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% 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% and 15% of beryllium-exposed workers are sensitized and will eventually develop CBD. In 1997, DOE issued interim guidelines to protect beryllium-exposed workers at all DOE facilities. The guidelines include provisions for exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and relocation of beryllium-sensitized workers.
These guidelines, however, do not affect workers outside DOE facilities. Thus, OSHA needs to initiate rulemaking to protect beryllium-exposed workers from contracting CBD and lung cancer.
Small Entities Affected: Undetermined
Government Levels Affected: Undetermined
Agency Contact: Adam M. Finkel, Director, Directorate of Health
Standards, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Room N3718, FP Building,
Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 219-7075
Fax: 202 219-7125
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