As Industrial Hygiene consultants, we receive a host of exposure monitoring requests for a myriad of chemicals, vapors, dusts, etc. In our experience, we would likely characterize beryllium exposure monitoring as one of the more infrequent, if not exotic requests. But perhaps that shouldn’t be the case. OSHA estimates that 62,000 workers are exposed annually to beryllium and when they began enforcing new permissible exposure limits (PEL) as part of their final rule for construction and maritime industries on May, 11th, they estimated that these updated regulations could save up to 90 lives a year from beryllium related disease. Most recently, OSHA has pushed the compliance date in the standard for General Industry to December 12th.
The extension and the rule itself are intended to help “clarify certain definitions and provisions for disposal/recycling, along with those that apply in cases of potential skin exposure.”
Beryllium is extremely toxic to lung tissue and prolonged exposure can lead to chronic beryllium disease, a pretty scary lung disease that is often misdiagnosed as sarcoidosis. Industries that engage in frequent welding which produces toxic fumes, as well as ash generating activities for coal burning power plants, electronics and defense industries are all noted as high risk groups. Despite the extension to the enforcement date, now is the time to start looking at your work practices if you are aware of exposure groups in your workforce in risk of overexposure and serious health risks.
If you have questions regarding the Beryllium standard or require exposure monitoring at your facility, please contact our team of experienced industrial hygienists and safety professionals immediately at 800.717.3472.