Beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test surveillance identifies clinically significant beryllium disease

Am J Ind Med. 2009 Oct;52(10):762-73. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20736.


Background: Workplace surveillance identifies chronic beryllium disease (CBD) but it remains unknown over what time frame mild CBD will progress to a more severe form.

Methods: We examined physiology and treatment in 229 beryllium sensitization (BeS) and 171 CBD surveillance-identified cases diagnosed from 1982 to 2002. Never smoking CBD cases (81) were compared to never smoking BeS patients (83) to assess disease progression. We compared CBD machinists to non-machinists to examine effects of exposure.

Results: At baseline, CBD and BeS cases did not differ significantly in exposure time or physiology. CBD patients were more likely to have machined beryllium. Of CBD cases, 19.3% went on to require oral immunosuppressive therapy. At 30 years from first exposure, measures of gas exchange were significantly worse and total lung capacity was lower for CBD subjects. Machinists had faster disease progression as measured by pulmonary function testing and gas exchange.

Conclusions: Medical surveillance for CBD identifies individuals at significant risk of disease progression and impairment with sufficient time since first exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Berylliosis / drug therapy
  • Berylliosis / epidemiology*
  • Berylliosis / etiology
  • Beryllium / toxicity*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Beryllium