Despite increasing need to remediate beryllium-contaminated buildings in industry, little is known about the magnitude of risk associated with beryllium abatement or the merits of beryllium medical surveillance for cleanup workers. We examined beryllium lymphocyte proliferation tests and reviewed medical evaluations on workers at a nuclear weapons facility during the process of decontamination and decommissioning. Of 2221 workers, 19 (0.8%) were beryllium sensitized based on two or more abnormal beryllium lymphocyte proliferation tests. Eight of 19 sensitized individuals underwent full clinical evaluation, of whom two were diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease (CBD). Notably, seven beryllium sensitized and CBD cases were hired after the start of cleanup operations. Beryllium medical surveillance detects sensitization and CBD in cleanup workers. Exposure controls and medical surveillance need to be ‘broad-based’ to include all cleanup workers involved in beryllium-contaminated building remediation.
From the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver (Ms Sackett, Dr Maier, Ms Silveira, Ms Mroz, Dr Newman); Division of Biostatistics, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver (Dr Murphy); School of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver (Dr Maier, Dr Newman); and Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver (Ms Sackett, Dr Ogden, Dr Murphy, Dr Newman).
Address correspondence to: Holly M. Sackett, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, 1400 Jackson Street, Denver, CO 80206. E-mail: SackettH@njc.org.