Beryllium Contamination Inside Vehicles of Machine Shop Workers
Inhalation of beryllium particles causes a chronic, debilitating lung disease--chronic beryllium disease (CBD)--in immunologically sensitized workers. Evidence that very low concentrations of beryllium may initiate this chronic disease is provided by incidences of the illness in family members exposed to beryllium dust from workers` clothes and residents in neighborhoods surrounding beryllium refineries. This article describes the results of a cross-sectional survey to evaluate potential take-home beryllium exposures by measuring surface concentrations on the hands and in vehicles of workers at a precision machine shop where cases of CBD had recently been diagnosed. Many workers did not change out of their work clothes and shoes at the end of their shift, increasing the risk of taking beryllium home to their families. Wipe samples collected from workers` hands and vehicle surfaces were analyzed for beryllium content by inductively coupled argon plasma-atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). The results ranged widely, from nondetectable to 40 Î¼g/ftÂ² on workers` hands and up to 714 Î¼g/fgÂ² inside their vehicles, demonstrating that many workers carried residual beryllium on their hands and contaminated the inside of their vehicles when leaving work. The highest beryllium concentrations inside the workers` vehicles were found on the drivers` floor (GM = 19 Î¼g/ftÂ², GSD = 4.9), indicating that workers were carrying beryllium on their shoes into their vehicles. A safe level of beryllium contamination on surfaces is not known, but it is prudent to reduce the potential for workers to carry beryllium away from the work site.
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