A cross sectional study of 297 white male workers employed in a large beryllium plant was conducted to test the hypothesis that long term exposure to beryllium is associated with decrements in pulmonary function. Spirometric measurement of pulmonary function, chest radiographs, and arterial blood gas measurements were collected. After controlling for age, height, and smoking in multivariate regression models, decrements in FVC and FEV1 were found to be associated with cumulative exposure to beryllium in the period up until 20 years before the health survey. These decrements were observed in workers who had no radiographic abnormalities. The alveolar-arterial oxygen difference was associated with cumulative exposure in the 10 years immediately before survey, after controlling for age and smoking. These findings suggest that beryllium may have both short and long term pulmonary effects that are distinct from the classic forms of acute and chronic beryllium disease.
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