Chronic Beryllium Disease: Causes

Reviewed by Lisa A. Maier, MD, MSPH, FCCP

How do you develop CBD?

It is important to know that no one develops CBD unless he or she is exposed to beryllium and develops 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.

 

What are my chances of developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD)?

The percentage of people with beryllium sensitization who go on to develop CBD is highly variable, ranging from 10 – 100 percent in different worker populations. Individuals with very high exposure to beryllium, such as machinists, are at great risk. On average, an estimated 40 – 60 percent of workers with beryllium sensitization will go on to develop CBD. Factors such as beryllium particle size and form, amount and duration of exposure, occupation, industry and genetics (or susceptibility) may all play a role in determining why some people develop CBD and others do not. Once you are exposed to beryllium, you carry a lifelong risk of developing beryllium sensitization or CBD, even if you had low exposures or you are no longer exposed.

When people with beryllium sensitization undergo clinical evaluation to determine if they have CBD, between 10 – 100 percent of them are found to have a CBD diagnosis on their first evaluation. If you have undergone evaluation and are found to have beryllium sensitization with no evidence of CBD, you are still at risk for developing CBD in the future. Recent research suggests that each year, 6 – 8 percent of people with beryllium sensitization will develop CBD, at least in the first 6 years.

 

For more information on beryllium, please contact National Jewish Health® at 1.800.222.5864, extension 1722.

 

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