Proposal would lower beryllium levels, increase workplace protections

The US federal government is proposing a new standard that would dramatically
lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used material that can cause
devastating lung diseases.

The majority of current worker exposures to beryllium occur in operations such
as foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics and
composites manufacturing and dental lab work. The proposed rule would not cover
some workers exposed to trace amounts of beryllium in raw materials, including
those employed at coal-burning power plants and aluminum production facilities,
and those performing abrasive blasting work with coal slag in the construction
and shipyards industries.

Currently, OSHA's eight-hour permissible exposure limit for beryllium is 2.0
micrograms per cubic meter of air. Above that level, employers must take steps
to reduce the airborne concentration of beryllium. That standard was originally
established in 1948 by the Atomic Energy Commission and adopted by OSHA in
1971. OSHA's proposed standard would reduce the eight-hour permissible exposure
limit to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The proposed rule would also require
additional protections, including personal protective equipment, medical exams,
other medical surveillance and training.

The 1971 limit significantly reduced fatalities due to acute beryllium disease
but, over time, it became clear that exposure below that limit also had
damaging long-term health effects.

More information - Source: U.S. Department of Labor