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ADA supports exemption to proposed OSHA rule on beryllium

October 20, 2015

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Association filed comments Oct. 16 with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the agency's proposed rule to lower exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in workplaces, supporting an exemption for employers who use but do not process articles with beryllium.

OSHA issued a Federal Register notice Aug. 7 calling for a new permissible exposure limit for beryllium as well as increased employee protection to the harmful element. Workers who inhale beryllium particles have an increased risk for developing chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer. The current eight-hour permissible exposure limit for beryllium is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, said OSHA in a news release. The new standard would reduce the exposure limit to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter.

In dental materials, including some crowns and bridges, beryllium-containing alloys are used to improve castability and bond strength. The process of melting, grinding, polishing and finishing certain dental materials can produce beryllium-containing particles, fumes, mists and solutions, which may be harmful depending on the intensity, duration, frequency and route of exposure.

In an Oct. 16 letter to OSHA, Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president, and Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, ADA executive director, asked the agency to add language to the rule stating that employers who use but do not process articles containing beryllium are fully exempt from all requirements. The Association also requested that the new rule exempt employers with fewer than 10 employees from including employee Social Security numbers in any recordkeeping required under the proposed standard.

The ADA noted that use of beryllium alloys in dental laboratories has fallen to very low levels, according to the National Association of Dental Laboratories. The Association also noted that both the ADA and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have promulgated standard practices to prevent unsafe exposure to beryllium and beryllium-containing compounds.

According to OSHA, some 35,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces. With the new rule, the agency said it hopes to prevent 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses each year.

For more information about beryllium and the workplace, visit OSHA.