Controlling beryllium inhalation exposures to comply with regulatory levels (2 microg m(-3) of air) does not appear to prevent beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease (CBD). Additionally, it has proven difficult to establish a clear inhalation exposure-response relationship for beryllium sensitization and CBD. Thus, skin may be an important route of exposure that leads to beryllium sensitization. A 2000 survey had identified prevalence of sensitization (7%) and CBD (4%) in a beryllium alloy facility. An improved particulate migration control program, including dermal protection in production areas, was completed in 2002 at the facility. The purpose of this study was to evaluate levels of beryllium in workplace air, on work surfaces, on cotton gloves worn by employees over nitrile gloves, and on necks and faces of employees subsequent to implementation of the program. Over a 6 day period, we collected general area air samples (n = 10), wipes from routinely handled work surfaces (n = 252), thin cotton glove samples (n = 113) worn by employees, and neck wipes (n = 109) and face wipes (n = 109) from the same employees. In production, production support and office areas geometric mean (GM) levels of beryllium were 0.95, 0.59 and 0.05 microg per 100 cm(2) on work surfaces; 42.8, 73.8 and 0.07 microg per sample on cotton gloves; 0.07, 0.09 and 0.003 microg on necks; and 0.07, 0.12 and 0.003 microg on faces, respectively. Correlations were strong between beryllium in air and on work surfaces (r = 0.79), and between beryllium on cotton gloves and on work surfaces (0.86), necks (0.87) and faces (0.86). This study demonstrates that, even with the implementation of control measures to reduce skin contact with beryllium as part of a comprehensive workplace protection program, measurable levels of beryllium continue to reach the skin of workers in production and production support areas. Based on our current understanding of the multiple exposure pathways that may lead to sensitization, we support prudent control practices such as use of protective gloves to minimize skin exposure to beryllium salts and fine particles.
Beryllium-compounds; Beryllium-disease; Beryllium-poisoning; Inhalation-studies; Inhalants; Exposure-assessment; Workplace-studies; Workplace-monitoring; Air-quality-measurement; Air-monitoring; Air-contamination; Airborne-dusts; Airborne-particles; Respiratory-system-disorders; Pulmonary-system-disorders