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Chronic Pulmonary Berylliosis in a Female Chemist
  1. R. I. McCallum,
  2. I. Rannie,
  3. C. Verity
  1. Nuffield Department of Industrial Health, King's College (University of Durham)
  2. The Department of Pathology, King's College (University of Durham)
  3. Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne
  4. Chest Clinic, New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne


    A chronic progressive granulomatous disease of the lungs is described in a female chemist who worked for about two years with a beryllium compound in the manufacture of fluorescent lighting tubes. The level of beryllium in the laboratory atmosphere was found to be 2·7 μg. per cu.m. and in other parts of the factory up to 39·1 μg. per cu.m. were recorded. Symptoms began about two years after she left this work and she died three years later. A diagnosis of chronic pulmonary berylliosis was made, and confirmation was obtained by lung biopsy when early in the course of the disease a large cyst attached to the right middle lobe was removed by thoracotomy. Tests of lung function showed that there was a low arterial saturation at rest and a normal Pco2 in spite of marked hyperventilation. Both elastance and resistance of the lungs were greater than normal and total work of breathing was six times the normal. Pregnancy was associated with relief of symptoms which persisted for some months after a normal birth. Death occurred about seven years after exposure to beryllium ceased. At necropsy beryllium was detected in the lungs chemically and demonstrated in histological sections by special stains. Microscopic examination of the lung showed conchoidal bodies and doubly refractile crystals and the pathogenesis of these lesions is discussed. It is suggested that there is a sensitivity reaction to beryllium, which is probably combined with protein to form an antigen, and that the breakdown of necrotic foci provokes a further reaction in the lung with the repeated appearance of fresh lesions.

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