Beryllium disease screening in the ceramics industry. Blood lymphocyte test performance and exposure-disease relations

J Occup Med. 1993 Mar;35(3):267-74.


We identified nine new cases of biopsy-confirmed chronic beryllium disease among 505 employees and ex-employees in a company that had manufactured beryllia ceramics from 1958 through 1975. Of tests commonly used in medical surveillance, only a confirmed blood beryllium lymphocyte transformation test had a high positive predictive value for beryllium disease (100%). However, two beryllium disease cases had either a normal or inconsistently abnormal blood test and were identified for diagnostic workup by abnormal chest radiograph. The only risk factor for beryllium disease was beryllium exposure; smoking or allergic history did not affect risk. Degree of beryllium exposure was associated with disease rates, which ranged from 2.9% to 15.8% for beryllia-exposed subgroups. One case of beryllium disease occurred in a "dust-disturber" who did not report past beryllium exposure and who began employment 8 years after commercial beryllia production had stopped. Our data support efforts to prevent beryllium disease by lowering beryllium exposures and to identify subclinical and early disease by broad-based medical surveillance using the blood beryllium lymphocyte test and chest radiograph in beryllium-using industries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Berylliosis / diagnosis
  • Berylliosis / immunology
  • Berylliosis / prevention & control*
  • Beryllium / immunology*
  • Ceramics / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors


  • Beryllium