Beryllium

The element beryllium is a grey metal that is an essential material in the aerospace, telecommunications, information technology, defense, medical, and nuclear industries. Beryllium is used industrially in three forms: as a pure metal, as beryllium oxide, and most commonly, as an alloy with copper, aluminum, magnesium, or nickel. Copper-beryllium alloy is commonly used to make bushings, bearings, and springs.

Workers in industries where beryllium is present (e.g., foundry workers, furnace tenders, machine operators, machinists, metal fabricators, welders, dental technicians) may be exposed to beryllium by inhaling or contacting beryllium in the air or on surfaces. Inhaling or contacting beryllium can cause an immune response that results in an individual becoming sensitized to beryllium. Individuals with beryllium sensitization are at risk for developing a debilitating disease of the lungs called chronic beryllium disease (CBD), if they inhale airborne beryllium after becoming sensitized. Beryllium-exposed workers may also develop other adverse health effects, such as acute beryllium disease, and lung cancer.

Note: A number of states that have their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health standards, which may be different from federal standards, but must be at least "as effective as" the federal standards. Certain states (e.g., California) may have stricter permissible exposure limits for beryllium and other hazardous substances. Employers located in OSHA State Plan states should check with their State Plan to ensure compliance with applicable law.

Beryllium Exposure Prevention Requirements

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule ("Beryllium Rule") to protect general industry workers (including dental office workers) from beryllium exposure. The rule provides staggered compliance dates to ensure that employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements and get the right protections in place.


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