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OSHA has issued a proposed rule that would lower the agency’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium in general industry from 2 µg/m3 to 0.2 µg/m3. According to OSHA, the new rule would require employers to measure workers’ exposures to beryllium, limit their access to areas where exposures exceed the PEL, implement controls for reducing exposures, and train workers about beryllium-related hazards.

Exposure to beryllium mist, dust, and fumes can cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD), which scars lung tissue and impairs the lungs’ ability to get oxygen to the bloodstream.

Beryllium, a naturally occurring element, has applications in many industries, including electronics, aerospace, and metals manufacturing. According to OSHA, the majority of current worker exposures to beryllium occur in operations such as foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics and composites manufacturing and dental lab work. The agency is seeking comment during the rulemaking process on whether these workers in coal-burning power plants and aluminum production facilities, and those performing abrasive blasting work with coal slag in the construction and shipyards industries should also be covered by the final rule.

Exposure to beryllium mist, dust, and fumes can cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD), which scars lung tissue and impairs the lungs’ ability to get oxygen to the bloodstream. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies beryllium as a human carcinogen.

OSHA adopted the standard as one of its first PELs when the agency was created in 1971.