Beryllium Exposure

Many dental alloys contain beryllium, a gray metal that is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. Dental laboratory technicians, or other dental workers who work with dental alloys containing beryllium, are at risk of developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD).  

CBD is a serious pulmonary disease that primarily affects the lungs. This disease, which can cause serious debilitation or even death, may occur among dental laboratory technicians when they inhale dust containing beryllium when working on items such as dental crowns, bridges, and partial denture frameworks made from dental alloys containing beryllium.   

Signs and symptoms of CBD can include shortness of breath, an unexplained cough, fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Some workers may develop severe symptoms very quickly, while others may not experience signs and symptoms until months or years after their exposure to beryllium. CBD can continue to progress even after a worker has been removed from exposure. An individual must become sensitized to beryllium through inhalation or skin exposure before he or she can develop CBD. 

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. 

Exposure Limits

Under OSHA's beryllium standard, employers must ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of beryllium in excess of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, calculated as an 8-hour time-weighted average. This figure represents the permissible exposure limit, or PEL. Employers must also ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of beryllium in excess of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter, as determined over a sampling period of 15 minutes. This figure is referred to as the short-term exposure limit, or STEL.  

Beryllium Exposure Prevention Requirements

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