As part of the Laboratory’s Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) encourages former workers who had the potential for exposure to beryllium at the Lab to be medically tested for possible sensitization to beryllium. Sensitization is an allergic-like reaction that could be a precursor to Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD). Individuals who worked in areas with residual beryllium dust or who engaged in activity that may have disturbed beryllium dust should consider medical testing.
LLNL has done extensive surface sampling of Lab facilities in which beryllium has historically been used and has identified a number of areas containing residual beryllium contamination. Initial results from this sampling survey, along with findings from assessments at other U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories, indicate that the population of Lab workers who may have potentially been exposed to beryllium could be larger than was previously thought.
Workers can be exposed to beryllium either by working directly with the material or by being in proximity to equipment or in facilities contaminated with beryllium. Tasks such as machining, welding, assembly and inspections, or conducting explosives tests present a higher probability for beryllium exposure to personnel. While beryllium has been used in a number of facilities in LLNL’s history, occupants or visitors to Buildings 321C, 231, 233, 241, 298, 695, 612 and the firing sites at Site 300 have a higher likelihood of having the potential for exposure to beryllium, though the potential for exposure exists in other facilities at the Lab.
In July 2009, the report “Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Beryllium-Affected Cases, 1998–2009” was published. This report details an epidemiologic descriptive analysis of 46 beryllium-affected workers identified by LLNL’s Health Services Department (HSD) between 1998 and 2009.
Former workers who believe they may have been exposed to beryllium dust at the Laboratory, may receive medical screening for beryllium exposure at no cost by contacting the Energy Employees Medical Monitoring Program/Northern California (877-653-1962) located in Dublin, California. For information regarding Workers’ Compensation, contact
Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (DEEOICP)/California Resource Center located in Livermore, California.
Alternatively, read the Worker Health Protection Program brochure called Free Medical Screening for Former Lawrence Livermore, Sandia California, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Workers.
Beryllium is a lightweight metal that can cause sensitization—a type of allergic response—in those who are exposed to it, even at low levels. Some of these individuals may go on to develop a serious lung disease called Chronic Beryllium Disease, which is characterized by scarring in the lungs and shortness of breath. Sensitization is determined by a blood test called a lymphocyte proliferation test. Individuals found to be sensitized require additional medical evaluation to determine if they may have CBD. More information about beryllium sensitization and CBD can be found on DOE’s Former Worker Medical Screening Program Website and DOE’s Beryllium Final Rule Website.
Through the efforts of the LLNL HSD and the DOE Former Worker Program, approximately 3,100 former and current LLNL employees have been tested for beryllium sensitization. As of December 2014, 126 of those individuals have been determined to be sensitized and 12 have been diagnosed with CBD. These employees represent a wide range of job classifications, including technicians, machinists, chemists, researchers, custodians, crafts workers, and office workers.
For beryllium exposure-related questions, please contact Steven Lee, Certified Industrial Hygienist, in the LLNL Worker Safety and Health Functional Area at (925) 423-6294 or (925) 525-7023. For medical questions, please contact Kathleen Noonan at (925) 423-8999 or Ruby Estes (925) 422-2077 in the Health Services Department.