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Keywords:

  • beryllium;
  • hypersensitivity;
  • safety management;
  • occupational exposure;
  • program evaluation

Abstract

Background

In 2000, a manufacturer of beryllium materials and products introduced a comprehensive program to prevent beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease (CBD). We assessed the program's efficacy in preventing sensitization 9 years after implementation.

Methods

Current and former workers hired since program implementation completed questionnaires and provided blood samples for the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). Using these data, as well as company medical surveillance data, we estimated beryllium sensitization prevalence.

Results

Cross-sectional prevalence of sensitization was 0.7% (2/298). Combining survey results with surveillance results, a total of seven were identified as sensitized (2.3%). Early Program workers were more likely to be sensitized than Late Program workers; one of the latter was newly identified. All sensitization was identified while participants were employed. One worker was diagnosed with CBD during employment.

Conclusions

The combination of increased respiratory and dermal protection, enclosure and improved ventilation of high-risk processes, dust migration control, improved housekeeping, and worker and management education showed utility in reducing sensitization in the program's first 9 years. The low rate (0.6%, 1/175) among Late Program workers suggests that continuing refinements have provided additional protection against sensitization compared to the program's early years. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:733–741, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.