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Beryllium Sensitization in Aluminum Smelter Workers

Taiwo, Oyebode A. MD, MPH; Slade, Martin D. MPH; Cantley, Linda F. MS; Fiellin, Martha G. MPH; Wesdock, James C. MD, MPH; Bayer, Felicia J. MS, APRN-BC; Cullen, Mark R. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 2 - p 157-162
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318161783f
Original Articles
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Objective: To determine whether beryllium-related disease exists among aluminum smelter workers.

Methods: A total of 1278 employees from four aluminum smelters determined to have significant beryllium exposure based on 5 years of sampling were invited to participate in medical surveillance that included a respiratory symptoms questionnaire, spirometry, and blood beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test.

Results: Of these, 734 employees participated in the program. Beryllium exposure from 965 personal samples ranged from 0.002 to 13.00 μg/m3 time-weighted average, with a median of 0.05 μg/m3, geometric mean of 0.05 μg/m3, and arithmetic mean of 0.22 μg/m3. Only two employees had confirmed beryllium sensitization (0.27%).

Conclusion: There is evidence of beryllium sensitization among aluminum smelter workers. When compared with beryllium-exposed workers in other industries, aluminum smelter workers had lower rates of sensitization. The low beryllium sensitization rate observed may be related to work practices and the properties of the beryllium found in this work environment.

From the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program (Dr Taiwo, Mr Slade, Ms Cantley, Ms Fiellin, Dr Cullen),Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn; and Alcoa, Inc. (Dr Wesdock, Ms Bayer), Pittsburgh, Pa.

Address correspondence to: Oyebode A. Taiwo MD, MPH, Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 135 College Street, 3rd Floor, New Haven, Connecticut 06510; E-mail: Oyebode.taiwo@yale.edu.

©2008The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine