Beryllium disease among construction trade workers at Department of Energy nuclear sites

Am J Ind Med. 2013 Oct;56(10):1125-36. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22202. Epub 2013 Jun 21.


Background: A medical surveillance program was developed to identify current and former construction workers at significant risk for beryllium related disease from work at the DOE nuclear weapons facilities, and to improve surveillance among beryllium exposed workers.

Methods: Medical examinations included a medical history and a beryllium blood lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). Stratified and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to explore the risk of disease by age, race, trade, and reported work in buildings where beryllium was used. After adjusting for covariates, the risk of BeS was significantly higher among boilermakers, roofers, and sheet metal workers, as suggested in the stratified analyses. Workers identified as sensitized to beryllium were interviewed to determine whether they had been subsequently diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease.

Results: Between 1998 and December 31, 2010 13,810 workers received a BeLPT through the BTMed program; 189 (1.4%) were sensitized to beryllium, and 28 reported that they had had a compensation claim accepted for CBD.

Conclusions: These data on former construction workers gives us additional information about the predictive value of the blood BeLPT test for detection of CBD in populations with lower total lifetime exposures and more remote exposures than that experienced by current workers in beryllium machining operations. Through this surveillance program we have identified routes of exposures to beryllium and worked with DOE site personnel to identity and mitigate those exposures which still exist, as well as helping to focus attention on the risk for beryllium exposure among current demolition workers at these facilities.

Keywords: beryllium; construction; medical surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Berylliosis / diagnosis
  • Berylliosis / epidemiology*
  • Construction Industry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Government Agencies