What is chronic beryllium disease (CBD)?
Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a disease that primarily affects the lungs, causing granulomas, inflammation and sometimes scarring. CBD is immune-mediated, meaning that CBD can develop only in individuals who have developed an immune response or “allergy” to the metal beryllium, termed beryllium sensitization. Beryllium sensitization occurs after a person that is susceptible, due to a genetic factor such as HLA-DPB Glu69 allele, breathes beryllium dust or fumes, or possibly if beryllium penetrates the skin through an open cut or from a beryllium splinter.
How do you develop CBD?
It is important to know that no one develops CBD unless they are exposed to beryllium and develop an immune response (beryllium sensitization) to it. CBD may develop after an individual breathes beryllium dust or fumes. Most people who are exposed to beryllium will not experience health effects.
Studies have shown that on average, 1-6% of exposed workers develop beryllium sensitization, although the rates can be as high as 16% among workers with the highest exposures, such as beryllium machinists. Most workers who are going to develop an allergy to beryllium tend to do so early on, but follow up testing over the years continues to identify workers with beryllium sensitization (Schuler, 2008).
For more information on beryllium, please contact National Jewish Health® at 1.800.222.5864.
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