Environment News Service

AmeriScan: May 10, 1999


Employees at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Hanford Nuclear Facility have established a new proactive group to deal with potential worker health risks from exposure to beryllium at the former plutonium production site in southeastern Washington state. The Beryllium Employee Awareness Group is exploring risks from contact with beryllium dust which can cause a serious and incurable lung disease known as chronic beryllium disease. Beryllium is a light metal that has been widely used in nuclear operations for years. The grayish metal was used in electrical and machine parts, tools, ceramics, nuclear weapons and aircraft parts. Despite agency adherence to current maximum exposure levels set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1971, the DOE's medical screening programs have diagnosed chronic beryllium disease in workers. "We will continue to develop programs and conduct monitoring at Hanford until we know where beryllium remains and steps have been taken to ensure that no additional significant beryllium exposure occur," said Paul Kruger, DOE's Richland Operations director of the Office of Environment, Safety and Health. There are no active beryllium operations at Hanford but it was used at the site from 1960 to 1986. More information is online at: http://www.hanford.gov/safety/beryllium/index.htm

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