A New Standard for Beryllium

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

collage of metallic items made out of beryllium

Beryllium is a remarkable metal: lighter than aluminum but strong as steel. It’s found in a wide range of products, from cell phones to satellites, is an important material for the defense industry, and it is an essential component of nuclear weapons.

But exposure to beryllium can be deadly. The danger arises when beryllium-containing materials are processed in a way that releases the metal into the air that is breathed by workers.

On Aug. 6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a long-awaited measure aimed at protecting workers from harmful exposure to beryllium by proposing to dramatically lower the amount of beryllium allowed in the air that workers breathe.

The current allowable amount was set originally by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, and adopted by OSHA in 1971, before the risks of long-term exposure were well understood. But we have known for decades that the allowable exposure levels for beryllium are inadequate.

The proposed rule − which would apply to about 35,000 workers − is significant for many reasons, but two are especially noteworthy.

First, this rule will save lives and reduce suffering.

We estimate that each year it will prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 illnesses. This includes cases of the debilitating, incurable condition known as chronic beryllium disease, as well as lung cancer.

Second, we are able to make this announcement because of a historic collaborative effort between industry and labor.

Together, the…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]