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Open Access Research article

Long-term follow-up of beryllium sensitized workers from a single employer

Mona Duggal1, David C Deubner2, Anne M Curtis3 and Mark R Cullen4*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

2 Brush-Wellman Inc., 14710 West Portage River South Road, Elmore OH, 43416, USA

3 Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA

4 Stanford University, Department of General Internal Medicine, 251 Campus Drive, MSOB 338 Stanford, CA, 94306, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-5

Published: 4 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Up to 12% of beryllium-exposed American workers would test positive on beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT) screening, but the implications of sensitization remain uncertain.

Methods

Seventy two current and former employees of a beryllium manufacturer, including 22 with pathologic changes of chronic beryllium disease (CBD), and 50 without, with a confirmed positive test were followed-up for 7.4 +/-3.1 years.

Results

Beyond predicted effects of aging, flow rates and lung volumes changed little from baseline, while DLCO dropped 17.4% of predicted on average. Despite this group decline, only 8 subjects (11.1%) demonstrated physiologic or radiologic abnormalities typical of CBD. Other than baseline status, no clinical or laboratory feature distinguished those who clinically manifested CBD at follow-up from those who did not.

Conclusions

The clinical outlook remains favorable for beryllium-sensitized individuals over the first 5-12 years. However, declines in DLCO may presage further and more serious clinical manifestations in the future. These conclusions are tempered by the possibility of selection bias and other study limitations.