I’ve been diagnosed with CBD. Can I return to work?
Your ability to return to work after being diagnosed with beryllium sensitization or CBD depends on several factors, including your overall health and the type of work you do. Many individuals with CBD are able to resume a normal work schedule at their current job or a different one, as the disease, and its symptoms, progress slowly.
Can I still work with or around beryllium?
While there is no level of exposure to beryllium that is considered “safe,” very low levels of beryllium — potential exposures < 0.01 microgram per cubic meter as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) — may be safe for both sensitized and diseased workers, although this has not been evaluated.
The use of respirators may be required for some areas or jobs. The employer or an industrial hygienist will outline the type of respirator required, when to wear a respirator and how long to wear a respirator. At the present time, it is not known whether removal from beryllium exposure changes the risk of developing CBD for a person with beryllium sensitization. It is also not known if removal from beryllium exposure will significantly change the course of illness for people with CBD. Even so, physicians consider it important and prudent for individuals with beryllium sensitization and CBD to minimize their exposure to airborne beryllium.
National Jewish Health physicians discuss recommendations with patients in regards to ongoing beryllium exposure because these issues can be very complex, but in general do recommend individuals diagnosed with beryllium sensitization and CBD who continue to work in a beryllium industry to have exposure of no more than 0.01 micrograms per cubic meter of beryllium as an 8-hour time-weighted average.
Because we do not know of a definite "safe" level of exposure below which sensitization and disease do not occur, it is important to limit beryllium exposure to the lowest level possible.
In the workplace, you or your employer should:
Substitute another product for beryllium if at all possible
Avoid cleaning with compressed air and dry sweeping of work areas
Use engineering controls to contain and limit exposure to beryllium, such as enclosed processes and proper exhaust ventilation
Use administrative controls to minimize the number of individuals who have access to areas where beryllium is used
Establish and maintain a respiratory protection program as needed, ensuring respirators fit properly and are used appropriately
Use skin protection, shower and change clothes before leaving the beryllium area and work facility
Ensure employees receive regular training on the proper handling of beryllium, proper use of personal protective equipment, as well as the hazards of beryllium exposure
Monitor the workplace for beryllium through industrial hygiene testing, with air and wipe sampling methods, in areas where beryllium is used currently as well as places where beryllium may have been used in the past
Conduct medical surveillance on workers at risk for direct and indirect beryllium exposure using the BeLPT
Link medical surveillance data to industrial hygiene data to identify areas of risk that may be amenable to further control measures.
Dentistry, Beryllium Sensitization and CBD
I have dental work containing a beryllium alloy. Will this cause beryllium sensitization or CBD?
No; the beryllium in dental work such as crowns, bridges or dental plates is infused in the alloy. For that reason, there is no risk of beryllium fumes or dust from the dental work becoming airborne, allowing it to be inhaled into the lungs. Bridges, crowns, dental plates and other dental work have not been found to cause beryllium sensitization or CBD. However, it has been published that, in very rare cases, beryllium in dental work has been shown to cause contact dermatitis.
I have been diagnosed with beryllium sensitization or CBD and have dental work. Do I need to get it replaced or tested for beryllium?
No; bridges, crowns, dental plates and other dental work have not been found to worsen beryllium sensitization or CBD.
Working in a dental laboratory:
Dental laboratory technicians who work with alloys containing beryllium or are in the same facility as modified beryllium alloys are at risk for developing beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease, or CBD. It is important to know that no one develops beryllium sensitization unless they are exposed to beryllium. While the amount of beryllium used in dental alloys is small, ranging from 0.05 – 2 percent, there is still a risk of developing beryllium sensitization or CBD. While altering the alloys, the dust and fumes produced can become aerosolized, and, if proper care is not taken, there is a potential for dental laboratory technicians to breathe them in. This risk applies only to dental labs where beryllium-containing alloys are fabricated or modified, not dental offices, where the alloys are not manufactured or altered.
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.
To learn more, view the Hazard Information Bulletin: Preventing Adverse Health Effects From Exposure To Beryllium In Dental Laboratories.
For more information on beryllium, please contact National Jewish Health® at 1.800.222.5864.
ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Proper use of beryllium-containing alloys. JADA; 2003: 134.
DOE, OSHA, Directorate of science, Technology and Medicine, Office of Science and Technology Assessment. Preventing adverse health effects from exposure to beryllium in dental laboratories. HIB 02-04-19.
Fireman E, Kramer MR, Priel I, Lerman Y. Chronic beryllium disease among dental technicians in Israel. Sarcoidosis Vasc Diffuse Lung Dis 2006; 3:215-212.
Haberman AL, Pratt M, Storrs FJ. Contact dermatitis from beryllium in dental alloys. Contact Dermatitis 1993; 28(3): 157-162.
Kotloff RM, Richman PS, Greenacre, JK, Rossman, MD. Chronic beryllium disease in a dental laboratory technician. Am Rev Respir Dis 1993; 147:205-207.