Earlier this month, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new ruling on exposure limits to the toxic metal beryllium. The new ruling is 10 times stronger than the last ruling which was made in 1949.
Beryllium is a toxic metal that is stiffer than steel yet lighter than aluminum. When the element is ground or cut, it releases a dust that can cause an incurable lung disease called beryllium disease that has proven fatal. Beryllium disease slowly harms the lungs to the point that some patients require an oxygen tank to breathe.
Beryllium is commonly used in the defense industry as well as in electronics and the aerospace industry. OSHA expects that this new ruling will apply to 62,000 workers.
The former industry standard limited exposure to 2 micrograms of beryllium dust per cubic meter of air. There have been attempts since the 1940s to decrease the exposure limit, but in 1975 the beryllium and defense industries fought against such measures for fear that increased safety precautions would undermine national defense strategies during the Cold War.
The new rule will limit beryllium exposure to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
Everyone deserves to work in a safe environment. Strengthening exposure limits will help protect thousands of workers from developing chronic beryllium disease.