Beryllium Occupational Exposures

Beryllium Occupational Exposures

Overview

Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure.[1] CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 3,800 Canadians are exposed to beryllium in their workplace. The largest industrial groups exposed are building equipment contractors, residential building construction, and automotive repair and maintenance.

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Other important industries where beryllium exposure occurs are non-residential building construction and medical equipment and supplies manufacturing. The primary occupational groups exposed are construction trades helpers, electricians, welders, and dental technologists. Additional groups that may also be exposed include workers involved in beryllium alloy production, metals and related products manufacturing, nuclear reactor operation, and electric and electronic equipment production.

Although only a small number of workers are exposed to high levels worldwide, the number of workers exposed to low levels is increasing.[2] This increase is due to increased use of beryllium in the aircraft, aerospace, nuclear, and electronics industries.[2]

Prevalence Estimate

Results show that nearly 3,800 Canadians are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces; 89% of these workers are male. The largest industrial groups exposed are building equipment contractors, residential building construction, and automotive repair and maintenance.

When beryllium exposure is examined by occupation, the largest exposed groups are construction trades helpers (1,100 workers exposed), electricians (610 workers exposed), welders and related machine operators (600 workers exposed), and dental technologists (240 workers exposed).

The number of workers exposed to beryllium remained approximately the same from 2006 to 2016 (a 2% decrease).

Workers exposed to beryllium by industry in 2016

Workers exposed to beryllium by region in 2016

Click the second tab to view total number of workers exposed.

* = < 50 workers
Methods and Data

Our Occupational Approach page outlines the general approach used to calculate prevalence and exposure level estimates for workplace exposures.

Data Sources

Data used in developing the occupational estimates for beryllium were collected from several sources:

  1. The Canadian Workplace Exposure Database (CWED) contains approximately 500 measurements for beryllium exposure. These measurements were collected during the years 1981 to 2004 in Ontario and British Columbia workplaces.
  2. Canadian and US scientific peer reviewed publications that addressed beryllium exposure in Canada and the United States.
  3. Grey literature including technical reports from governments and international bodies.

 

Prevalence Estimate Method

CAREX defines exposure to beryllium as inhalation and/or dermal exposure at work (it is rare to encounter any measurable levels of beryllium in the general environment).

To determine the number of workers potentially exposed to beryllium at work, CAREX occupational exposure experts used methods previously established in other peer-reviewed CAREX projects in Europe. A series of steps were taken to assign exposure proportions to occupations and industries at risk of exposure to beryllium.

  1. Occupations and industries at risk of possible exposure to beryllium were identified using any combination of data sources described above.
  2. The total number of workers in each identified occupation and industry intersection was obtained from Statistics Canada 2016 census data.
  3. A percentage of workers exposed was assigned to that occupation and industry intersection. Percentages were determined by consultation with existing evidence in the data sources, previously established methods from the Europe CAREX estimates and the expert judgement of CAREX occupational hygienists.
  4. The number of workers in the identified group is multiplied by the assigned percentage to calculate the prevalence estimate of workers exposed to beryllium.
Sources

1. National Toxicology Program (NTP). 14th report on carcinogens for Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds (2016) (PDF)
2. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Monograph summary, Volume 58 (1993) (PDF)

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