Objective: The most compelling real-world example of genetic testing for susceptibility to a workplace exposure involves those industries that process or fabricate beryllium. We examined ethical issues associated with testing for susceptibility to chronic beryllium disease.
Methods: Using ethical and clinical criteria, we examined voluntary employer-sponsored testing programs in which individual results are reported directly to workers in a confidential manner.
Results: Under reasonable assumptions, the longitudinal positive predictive value of the HLA-DPB1-Glu69 marker of susceptibility to beryllium disease is 12%. Interpretive challenges further limit the utility of the test and may inadvertently suggest a false sense of safety among workers. Concerns about confidential participation and pressures to be tested also must be addressed.
Conclusions: Difficulties surrounding the interpretation of the HLA-DPB1-Glu69 marker, lack of assurance regarding the protection of worker confidentiality, and the potential lowering of social barriers to the implementation of mandatory worker screening combine to make testing beryllium workers inappropriate at this time.