Beryllium sensitization, chronic beryllium disease, and exposures at a beryllium mining and extraction facility

Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2001 May;16(5):579-92. doi: 10.1080/104732201750169697.


In this study, we examine beryllium sensitization, chronic beryllium disease (CBD), and workplace exposures at a beryllium mining (mine) and extraction facility (mill) in Delta, Utah. Historical airborne beryllium data collected between 1970-1999 included general area (GA), breathing zone (BZ), and personal lapel (LP) measurements and calculations of job-specific quarterly daily-weighted averages (DWVAs). We compared GA, BZ, and DWA data to airborne beryllium data from a mixed beryllium products facility and a beryllium ceramics facility located in Elmore, Ohio and Tucson, Arizona, respectively. At the Delta facility, jobs involving beryllium hydrolysis and wet-grinding activities had the highest air concentrations; annual median GA concentrations were less than 0.3 microg/m3 or both areas. Annual median GA sample concentrations ranged from 0.1-0.4 microg/m(-3) at Delta. These levels were generally lower than Elmore (0.1-1.0 microg/m3) and were comparable to the Tucson facility (0.1-0.4 microg/m3). Median BZ concentrations were higher, whereas DWAs were lower at the Delta facility than at the other two facilities. Among the 87 employees at the Delta facility, 75 participated in the medical survey; there were three persons sensitized, one with CBD. The individual with CBD previously worked at the Elmore facility for 10 years. Cumulative CBD incidence rates were significantly lower at the Delta facility: 0.3 percent compared to 2.0 percent for Elmore and 2.5 percent for the Tucson facility. Sensitization and CBD prevalence rates determined from cross-sectional surveys for the Delta facility were lower than but not significantly different from rates at the other two facilities. There was no sensitization or CBD among those who worked only at the mine where the only exposure to beryllium results from working with bertrandite ore. Although these results are derived from a small sample, this study suggests that the form of beryllium may affect the likelihood of developing CBD. Specifically, exposure to beryl and bertrandite ore dusts or to beryllium salts, in the absence of exposure to beryllium oxide particulates appears to pose a lower risk for developing CBD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / analysis
  • Berylliosis / epidemiology*
  • Beryllium / adverse effects*
  • Beryllium / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk
  • Utah / epidemiology


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Beryllium