Many Americans live and work in toxic environments. These environments often do not appear dangerous on the outside, though they may harbor potentially deadly toxins like asbestos, lead, silica, and beryllium. Beryllium is a chemical element used to create metals that are stronger than steel. Beryllium can be extremely useful because of its strength and weight, but it can also pose serious health risks to workers. Like other workplace toxins, a worker suffering the effects of beryllium exposure may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits if he or she requires medical treatment or is forced to miss work.
Beryllium exposure primarily affects the lungs and the rest of the respiratory system. To protect workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new rule for the regulation of beryllium in American workplaces to reduce workers’ exposure to the element. The rule will become effective on May 20, 2017.
Where are Workers Exposed to Beryllium?
Beryllium is present in equipment used in numerous industries, including aerospace, energy, automotive, telecommunications, nuclear energy, and medicine. OSHA estimates that approximately 62,000 American workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces. Occupations where workers are more likely to be exposed to beryllium include:
- Abrasive blasters
- Manufacture of alloys that include beryllium, such as those manufacturing equipment for the dental industry, furnace tenders, and foundry workers
- The refining and secondary smelting of objects that include beryllium, such as computer and metal recycling.
OSHA’s new rule will limit the amount of time workers can be exposed to specific levels of beryllium in their work environments. Employers are required to comply with most of the requirements in the rule by March 2018, but certain requirements will not be mandatory until 2019. These include installing showers and changing rooms for employees. By 2020, all affected employers must have brought their engineering controls into compliance. Employers in general industry, shipyards, and construction are subject to the rule.
Effects of Beryllium on the Body
Exposure to beryllium typically occurs through inhalation of the element. This can cause an individual to become sensitized to beryllium, which puts them at risk of developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD). This can lead to acute beryllium disease. Workers’ loved ones may also be at risk of developing these conditions through exposure to compounds brought home on clothing and equipment.
CBD has the following symptoms:
- Dry cough
- Night sweats
- Chest pain
- Joint pain
An affected individual might not experience the symptoms of chronic beryllium disease for years following their exposure. Treating CBD can involve immunosuppressive drugs to slow the disease’s growth. Oxygen therapy may be used to provide palliative treatment and in rare cases, patients receive lung transplants to combat the effects of CBD.
Acute beryllium disease is characterized by the rapid onset of symptoms that include shortness of breath, coughing, and inflammation of the lungs. Acute beryllium disease and chronic beryllium disease are two forms of the same condition, beryllium-induced lung disease.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Represent Workers Suffering from Illnesses Related to Beryllium Exposure in the Workplace
If you are suffering from the harmful effects of beryllium exposure in your workplace, consider working with an experienced Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyer to pursue the compensation you need for your medical bills and lost wages. To set up your initial consultation at DiTomaso Law, complete our online form or call us at 856-414-0010. We have offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Philadelphia, where we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Pennsylvania.