Beryllium Sensitization in Aluminum Smelter Workers

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Objective:To determine whether beryllium-related disease exists among aluminum smelter workers.Methods:A total of 1278 employees from four aluminum smelters determined to have significant beryllium exposure based on 5 years of sampling were invited to participate in medical surveillance that included a respiratory symptoms questionnaire, spirometry, and blood beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test.Results:Of these, 734 employees participated in the program. Beryllium exposure from 965 personal samples ranged from 0.002 to 13.00 μg/m3 time-weighted average, with a median of 0.05 μg/m3, geometric mean of 0.05 μg/m3, and arithmetic mean of 0.22 μg/m3. Only two employees had confirmed beryllium sensitization (0.27%).Conclusion:There is evidence of beryllium sensitization among aluminum smelter workers. When compared with beryllium-exposed workers in other industries, aluminum smelter workers had lower rates of sensitization. The low beryllium sensitization rate observed may be related to work practices and the properties of the beryllium found in this work environment.

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