How can beryllium poisoning be prevented?

Avoiding exposure to beryllium is the most effective way to prevent chronic beryllium disease (CBD). The employer and all employees must make an effort to minimize and avoid exposure. The employer must follow standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including:

  • Adequate ventilation of workspaces.
  • Minimal use of beryllium over other, equivalent metals.
  • Isolation of procedures using beryllium.
  • Safe use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuums for cleaning.
  • The use of personal protective devices, including face masks and respirators.

The employee must always completely clean his or her workspace and avoid eating, drinking, smoking, and applying make-up when working with beryllium dust or fumes.

Although there is a permissible exposure limit (PEL) set by OSHA for CBD-causing beryllium forms, this standard may still be too high. Inquire with your employer about the company's specific PEL.

If you work with beryllium, there are a number of actions you can take to avoid exposing your family:

  • Remove street clothes and put on a uniform before entering the work area.
  • Before leaving work, leave the uniform in a hamper with a lid at the workplace.
  • Shower before leaving work.
  • Clean work shoes before leaving the work area and don't wear them home.

Can genetic testing identify who is at higher risk of developing beryllium sensitivity (BeS) or chronic beryllium disease (CBD)?

Genetic testing may be able to identify individuals with a higher risk of developing BeS and/or progression to CBD. However, more studies are needed before beginning the widespread use of those tests. Currently, the decision to perform genetic testing should be done on a case-by-case basis, after careful discussion with a genetic counselor and the doctor.

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