Sensitization and chronic beryllium disease at a primary manufacturing facility, part 3: exposure–response among short-term workers
Objectives Exposure–response relations for beryllium sensitization (BeS) and chronic beryllium disease (CBD) using aerosol mass concentration have been inconsistent, although process-related risks found in most studies suggest that exposure-dependent risks exist. We examined exposure–response relations using personal exposure estimates in a beryllium worker cohort with limited work tenure to minimize exposure misclassification.
Methods The population comprised workers employed in 1999 with six years or less tenure. Each completed a work history questionnaire and was evaluated for immunological sensitization and CBD. A job-exposure matrix was combined with work histories to create individual estimates of average, cumulative, and highest-job-worked exposure for total, respirable, and submicron beryllium mass concentrations. We obtained odds ratios from logistic regression models for exposure–response relations, and evaluated process-related risks.
Results Participation was 90.7% (264/291 eligible). Sensitization prevalence was 9.8% (26/264), with 6 sensitized also diagnosed with CBD (2.3%, 6/264). A general pattern of increasing sensitization prevalence was observed as exposure quartile increased. Both total and respirable beryllium mass concentration estimates were positively associated with sensitization (average and highest job), and CBD (cumulative). Increased sensitization prevalence was identified in metal/oxide production, alloy melting and casting, and maintenance, and for CBD in melting and casting. Lower sensitization prevalence was observed in plant-area administrative work.
Conclusions Sensitization was associated with average and highest job exposures, and CBD was associated with cumulative exposure. Both total and respirable mass concentrations were relevant predictors of risk. New process-related risks were identified in melting and casting and maintenance.