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A long-term follow-up of workers exposed to beryllium
  1. J E Cotes,
  2. J C Gilson*,
  3. C B McKerrow,
  4. P D Oldham
  1. 1Medical Research Council Pneumoconiosis Unit, Llandough Hospital, Penarth, S Glamorgan CF6 1XW, UK


    ABSTRACT The relationship of features of beryllium disease to the estimated exposure to beryllium has been investigated over a 30-year period at a factory manufacturing beryllium products. The factory opened in 1952. Of the 146 men who had worked there for more than six months up to 1963, 89% were seen at that time and were followed up in 1973. The nine who continued to work in the factory and those who were engaged subsequently were examined in 1977. On each occasion a clinical interview, occupational history, chest radiograph, and assessment of lung function were carried out. The findings of the main survey were related to the beryllium content of the dust measured by mass spectrometry for 1952-60 when over 3000 determinations were made. In no part of the plant did the estimated average daily exposure exceed 2 μg m-3, and only 9% of individual determinations exceeded this level. Twenty determinations exceeded 25 μg m-3. During the period under review, four men developed the clinical, radiographic, and physiological features of beryllium disease. Two men acquired abnormal chest radiographs consistent with beryllium disease but without other features, and one developed probable beryllium disease despite the diagnosis not being confirmed at necropsy. The affected men were all exposed to beryllium oxide or hydroxide but in a wide range of estimated doses. In six the changes developed after exposure had ceased; trigger factors including patch testing may have contributed to their illness. Seventeen men recalled episodes of brief exposure to high concentrations of dust, two developed pneumonitis from which they recovered completely, and one developed chronic beryllium disease after a further 23 years' exposure. In subjects without clinical or radiographic evidence of disease no convincing evidence was obtained for any association between the lung function and the estimated exposure to beryllium.

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    • * Present address: Hembury Hill Farm, Honiton, Devon.

    • Dr McKerrow died in 1972.