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Prevalence of Beryllium Sensitization Among Department of Defense Conventional Munitions Workers at Low Risk for Exposure

Mikulski, Marek A. MD, MPH; Sanderson, Wayne T. PhD; Leonard, Stephanie A. MS; Lourens, Spencer BS; Field, R. William PhD; Sprince, Nancy L. MD, MPH; Fuortes, Laurence J. MD, MS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 3 - p 258–265
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31820a408a
Original Articles

Objective: To estimate the prevalence of beryllium sensitization among former and current Department of Defense workers from a conventional munitions facility.

Methods: Participants were screened by using Beryllium Lymphocyte Proliferation Test. Those sensitized were offered clinical evaluation for chronic beryllium disease.

Results: Eight (1.5%) of 524 screened workers were found sensitized to beryllium. Although the confidence interval was wide, the results suggested a possibly higher risk of sensitization among workers exposed to beryllium by occasional resurfacing of copper–2% beryllium alloy tools compared with workers with the lowest potential exposure (odds ratio = 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 0.23–29.9).

Conclusions: The findings from this study suggest that Department of Defense workers with low overall exposure to beryllium had a low prevalence of beryllium sensitization. Sensitization rates might be higher where higher beryllium exposures presumably occurred, although this study lacked sufficient power to confirm this.

From the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health (Drs Mikulski, Sanderson, Leonard, Field, Sprince, and Fuortes), Department of Biostatistics (Mr Lourens), Department of Epidemiology (Dr Field), College of Public Health, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa; and Department of Epidemiology (Dr Sanderson), College of Public Health, The University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.

Address correspondence to: Marek Mikulski, MD, MPH, The University of Iowa, 2213 Westlawn, Iowa City, IA 52242;

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine