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Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
July 30th, 2019
Beryllium Regulations To Lower Worker Exposure
Recently OSHA has put new Beryllium Regulations in effect to lower worker exposure levels. Based on information on the health hazards of worker Beryllium exposure, OSHA has lowered the allowable exposure level by a factor of 10—from 2 ug/m3 to 0.2 ug/m3—and create a separate standard for Beryllium (29 CFR 1910.1024).
There are a variety of ways an individual may be exposed to Beryllium or Beryllium containing compounds.
What is Beryllium?
Beryllium is a metal that is strong, lightweight and conducts electricity. By just those criteria, you can see that it could have many modern-day uses.
Beryllium Use and Exposure
Because it is relatively rare and difficult to separate from surrounding rock, it is expensive and available in limited quantity. At the same time, it has many uses including:
- Automotive parts,
- Dental supplies,
- Metal recycling,
- Instrument recycling,
- Electronics recycling,
- Beryl ore mining,
- Nuclear weapons,
- Precision machine parts,
- Welding of electronic and precision parts.
Each of these uses presents the potential for exposures to workers mining, refining, molding, product development, manufacturing, usage, and afterlife such as recycling or disposal. (Thankfully it has yet to be shown to be a hazard to golfers since it is used in new lightweight golf clubs! Yours truly) is breathing a sigh of relief!!
Some of the more significant exposures seem to be in casting and processing of Beryllium Copper and Beryllium Aluminum Alloys. This also includes deburring, heat treating, plating, polishing, cleaning, soldering, and assembly of components.
Production of other Beryllium products also presents exposure potential that may exceed the proposed OSHA PEL of 0.2 ug/m3. This can include casting, machining, and assembly of electronic components, plastic molding, dental plates manufacturing, sporting equipment (those golf clubs!), and nuclear shielding applications. Usage of these Beryllium containing products and components usually do not present any significant exposure potential to the end-user unless there is substantial friction or heat generation involved. (Usually not the case with my golf clubs).
A Cancer-Causing Substance
The diseases caused by exposure to Beryllium are significant and it is recognized that the current OSHA PEL of 2 ug/m3 is not sufficiently protective of the worker. Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) previously known as Berylliosis is an allergic sensitization reacts primarily in the lungs but it can also damage the liver, kidneys, nervous system and lymphatics. The consequences can be disabling and potentially fatal. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and ACGIH now list Beryllium as a cancer-causing substance.
Acute Beryllium Disease
There are also acute effects of exposure to Beryllium including skin sensitization, absorption through cuts, and damage to the eyes. Heavy exposure over a short period of time may result in acute Beryllium disease which affects the lungs with a condition similar to bronchitis or pneumonia.
Initial and regular monitoring of workers who may be exposed to Beryllium is an essential requirement of the new standard. Personnel sampling/testing for Beryllium is not complex. It usually involves attaching a portable air sampling/testing device to the employee for a work shift and comparing the results to the OSHA PEL. Such sampling/testing should be done by a suitably qualified individual such as an industrial hygienist who can perform the testing, evaluate the work activity, interpret the results, and provide guidance and recommendations where corrective measures are necessary to reduce exposure levels.
The new OSHA Standard for Beryllium 29 CFR 1910.1024 has very specific requirements for testing, program development, protective measures, biological monitoring, training, and recordkeeping. Further details can readily be obtained from the OSHA website at www.osha.gov.
Atlantic Environmental, Inc. is familiar with Beryllium health hazards and the requirements for Beryllium compliance and has the qualified individuals to be of assistance to any organization who deals with Beryllium.
Our primary service areas for Industrial Hygiene Services are: NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, IL, VA, IN, GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.