Assessing health effects of DOE operations on employees exposed to airborne beryllium

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) manages a comprehensive beryllium exposure studies and testing program for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to assess the health effects of DOE operations on employees exposed to airborne beryllium and other occupational hazards. Beryllium is a metal used in many industries, including aerospace, defense and nuclear weapons production. Inhaling beryllium as dust or fumes from machining or manufacturing activities can cause sensitization in some individuals that may be an early indicator of chronic beryllium disease (CBD), formerly known as berylliosis.

CBD leads to the development of small, inflammatory nodules in the lungs called granulomas, which reduce the ability of the lungs to process gases and cause the patient to cough and experience shortness of breath. Other symptoms of CBD are chest pain, joint aches, weight loss and fever.

Workers who have been—or potentially could have been—exposed to beryllium should receive the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). The BeLPT serves as a key diagnostic tool to identify workers who are sensitized to beryllium and who may be at greater risk of developing CBD.

The program encompasses:

Beryllium Testing Laboratory
The ORISE Beryllium Testing Laboratory is one of only three labs in the United States that performs the BeLPT for current and former DOE workers.

Testing Beryllium Vendor Populations
DOE vendor sites that are no longer operating have tens of thousands of former employees who need medical tests related to their beryllium exposure.

Beryllium-Associated Worker Registry
ORISE collects data from 27 reporting DOE sites on nearly 32,000 workers, assisting DOE in the analysis of these data focusing on predictive indicators and risk management.

For more information:

ORISE Beryllium Testing Laboratory
Phone: 865.576.3115


Toll-Free Numbers for Workers
Beryllium Vendor Screening Program: 1.866.219.3442
Beryllium Medical Surveillance Program: 1.866.219.3442