Published: Jan 2011
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It has been suggested that beryllium can enter through either intact skin or breaks in the skin to initiate sensitization. Therefore, it is essential that all possible pathways of exposure be considered when assessing a work site for potential exposure to beryllium. A meta-analysis was done on the data from eight different industries that use beryllium or beryllium alloys, which were surveyed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration contractors, with reports being issued. During those visits, measurements were made to characterize worker exposure to skin and surface contamination levels of beryllium. Surface contamination evaluation followed the well-established protocol for lead surface contamination measurements using NIOSH Method 9100 and hand contamination using NIOSH Method 9102. It was found that both the arithmetic and geometric means of the surface samples were significantly higher in work areas as compared to administrative areas. Skin samples were also higher for individuals in production areas than for those in non-production areas. If skin contamination is a route of sensitization, these results would mean that past studies of beryllium exposure and subsequent disease might have been confounded by the lack of skin exposure data.
beryllium, skin contamination, industrial processes
West Virginia Univ., Morgantown, WV