Risk of beryllium sensitization in a low-exposed former nuclear weapons cohort from the cold war era

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BackgroundThe nuclear weapons industry has long been known as a source of beryllium exposure.MethodsA total of 1,004 former workers from a nuclear weapons assembly site in the Midwest were screened for sensitization to beryllium (BeS). The screenings were part of the Department of Energy (DOE) Former Worker Program established in 1996.ResultsTwenty-three (2.3%) workers were found sensitized to beryllium and this prevalence was comparable to other DOE sites. Occasional, direct exposure to beryllium through machining and grinding of copper-beryllium (Cu-Be) 2% alloy tools was found to increase the risk of sensitization compared to background exposure (OR = 3.83; 95% CI: 1.04-14.03) with a statistically significant trend (P = 0.03) revealing that particular jobs are associated with sensitization. Exposure potential in this study was estimated based on job titles and not personal exposure information.ConclusionsThese results confirm the need to screen workers using beryllium alloy tools in other industries and for consideration of altering work practices. Am. J. Ind. Med. 54:194-204, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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