What is Berylliosis?
Berylliosis is known by several other names: Acute Beryllium Disease; Beryllium Granulomatosis; Beryllium Pneumonosis; and Beryllium Poisoning.
Berylliosis develops after exposure to and inhalation of beryllium dust or vapor. Some metallic compounds also contain beryllium, which can also be a source of exposure. Beryllium is a metal that, once extracted from the earth, is refined and ground down into a very fine powder. It is used in the manufacturing of many products.
"Pure beryllium metal is used in the manufacture of aircraft disc brakes, nuclear weapons and reactors, missile parts, heat shields, X-ray machine parts, mirrors, and spacecraft. Beryllium oxide is used in ceramics for electronics and high-technology applications. Among the uses for beryllium alloys are electrical connectors, springs, precision instruments, aircraft engine parts, wheels and pinions. Beryllium metal and metal alloys may be found in consumer products such as televisions, calculators, computers, special nonsparking tools and sports equipment...dental alloys and dental bridges." (www.chronicberylliumdisease.com)
Minute traces of beryllium are detectable in our air. One of the main contributing factors is the burning of coal and fuel oil and cities or areas surrounding plants or manufacturers that deal with beryllium have higher concentrations. The average concentration of beryllium in the air is about .03 nanograms (1 nanogram is 1 billionth of a gram). This is considered very low and hardly life threatening.
Berylliosis can affect not only those that work directly with the metal in its various forms, but also those who could be exposed to the dust from the atmosphere or workers' clothes.
There are two types of berylliosis: acute and chronic. With acute beryllium disease, the metal is a direct chemical irritant, resulting in nonspecific inflammation (acute chemical pneumonitis). Improved industrial hygiene measures designed to reduce the exposure of workers to the metal, however, has virtually eliminated acute beryllium disease.
Chronic beryllium disease, though, is still an issue for those that work with the metal.