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Written by Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President
November 7, 2018
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.
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.
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: electronics, laboratory applications, nuclear energy and weapons, metal applications (bearings, aerospace, alloys), dental devices and even golf clubs.
Each of these uses presents potential for exposures to workers mining, refining, molding, product development, manufacturing, usage and after life such as recycling or disposal. (Thankfully it has yet to be shown to be a hazard to golfers since ti is used in new lightweight golf clubs! Yours truly).
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).
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.
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 sampling/testing of workers who may be exposed to Beryllium is an essential requirement of the new standard. Personnel sampling for Beryllium is not complex. It usually involves attaching a portable air sampling 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/sampling, program development, protective measures, biological monitoring, training and record keeping. Further details can readily be obtained from the OSHA website at www.osha.gov.
Atlantic Environmental, Inc. is familiar with 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 Sampling 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.