Beryllium is a metal used in smaller amounts in various industries. Exposure to beryllium is a very common yet major cause of illness in individuals who mine as well as process the metal in industries like nuclear weapon manufacture, metal scrap, electronics recycling, aerospace, aircraft, and defense.
Since smaller amounts of beryllium are dangerous and often added to many magnesium, alloy, nickel, and copper alloys, employees are unaware of its risks and exposure. One major risk is developing beryllium disease.
Beryllium illness differs from other lung diseases in that, in a low level of exposure, lung problems occur in individuals sensitive to the metal.
Causes of Beryllium Illness
Beryllium exposure is the main cause of beryllium illness or berylliosis. It can be absorbed through your skin or inhaled as airborne particles and insoluble particles will remain in your body for many years.
Once exposed to beryllium, experts at UEW Healthcare say that your body can mount a cell-mediated immune response involving T-cells.
Every time you are exposed, your immune system attacks the skin or lungs. Over time, this leads to aggregation of the white blood cells.
But it is important to note that everyone who is exposed to beryllium develops berylliosis. In general, you must be exposed to a certain level of beryllium exposure for a long period to be vulnerable.
In the early phases of berylliosis, little to no symptoms are often experienced by an individual. When an individual starts to develop berylliosis, swelling or inflammation occurs in their lungs because they react to foreign objects.
The typical response of the lungs to beryllium exposure is to develop a collection of cells called granulomas, which may cause lung scarring. This, in turn, reduces the ability of the lungs to function. And over time, inflammation continues, and other symptoms, such as the following, will become apparent:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Joint paint
- Difficulty breathing
Berylliosis Screenings and Prevention
Employees exposed to the metal must be screened and examined for the disease. A BeLPT (beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test) is a blood test, which helps to determine whether sensitivity or an allergic reaction to beryllium is present or not.
Early detection will help your primary doctor understand your general health as well as prevent misdiagnosis. This way, your doctor may also recommend several ways of protecting your lungs, like pneumonia or flu shots and treatment for lung infections.
Our Approach to Berylliosis
UEW Healthcare provides comprehensive care and evaluations for work-related lung illnesses like berylliosis. We provide advice on pulmonary function tests and flexible bronchoscopy involved in examining airways. We are also very committed to offering quality care to patients, their families, and the community we serve professionally and compassionately.
Because berylliosis is a work-related illness, patients must know they are entitled to compensation. Government employees also have the right to medical management and screening programs, while private workers can contact their attorneys for compensation.