Beryllium is used frequently in nuclear weapons production at Department of Energy Facilities
What is Chronic Beryllium Disease?
Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) or berylliosis is an incurable, allergic reaction to the element beryllium. Almost all cases of CBD are resultant from workplace exposure to beryllium dust, fumes, or vapor.
Nuclear workers are at a high risk. Beryllium is used frequently in nuclear weapons production at Department of Energy Facilities. Living with Chronic Beryllium Disease can be challenging for patients and their families.
Workers who have been diagnosed with CBD can receive benefits under both Part B and E of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA).
Chronic Beryllium Prevention and Screenings
It is very important that workers who may have been exposed to beryllium are screened for the condition as soon as possible. The CDC estimates approximately ten percent of exposed workers will develop CBD.
A beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT), is a blood test that can determine whether or not an allergic reaction or “sensitivity” to beryllium is present. There are a number of national screening programs for nuclear workers to have testing done.
Early detection can help your doctor understand your overall health and avoid misdiagnosis. It’s not uncommon for Chronic Beryllium Disease to be confused with COPD or Sarcoidosis. Your doctor can also recommend ways to protect your lungs such as flu or pneumonia shots and aggressive treatment of any lung infections.
Symptoms of Beryllium Disease
Chronic Beryllium Disease can begin shortly after exposure or many years later. The disease typically progress slowly, with noticeable symptoms developing years if not decades after exposure.
Typical CBD symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Excessive or chronic coughing
- Loss of weight
- General weakness
- Pulmonary fibronodular disease
While there is currently no cure for CBD there are treatment options to slow the development, improve blood-oxygen levels and relieve symptoms associated with the disease. You should always consult a doctor before attempting any treatment. Every patient’s situation and best plan of care will vary.
Drugs are often prescribed by doctors, such as Prednisone, to inhibit immune system response to beryllium and reduce symptoms. Concentrated oxygen can also help improve breathing.
Changing air filters, use of dehumidifiers and frequent dusting of living spaces can also help reduce the amount of irritants in the air and make breathing more comfortable. It goes without saying, those with beryllium disease should stop smoking immediately.
EEOICPA & Chronic Beryllium Disease
What are the Eligibility Criteria for CBD under Part B?
The medical evidence required to support a diagnosis of CBD under Part B differs based on the date of diagnosis. If CBD was diagnosed on or after January 1, 1993, the medical documentation must include: an abnormal beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT), or an abnormal Energy beryllium lymphocyte transformation test (BeLTT), performed on either blood or lung lavage cells; lung pathology consistent with CBD; plus any of the following:
- A lung biopsy showing granulomas or a lymphocytic process consistent with CBD
- A Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scan showing changes consistent with CBD
- A pulmonary function study or exercise tolerance test showing pulmonary deficits consistent with CBD
If CBD was diagnosed before January 1, 1993, the medical documentation must include a history of, or epidemiological evidence of, exposure to beryllium, plus three of the following criteria:
- Characteristic chest X-ray or computed tomography (CT) abnormalities
- Restrictive or obstructive lung physiology testing or diffusing lung capacity defect
- Lung pathology consistent with CBD
- Clinical course consistent with a chronic respiratory disorder
- Immunologic tests showing beryllium sensitivity (skin patch test or beryllium blood test)
What are the Benefits for CBD accepted under Part B?
- Employees may receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 and payment of medical expenses from the filing date of the claim
- Eligible survivors may receive a lump sum payment of $150,000 (divided equally)
What are the Eligibility Criteria for CBD under Part E?
Eligible DOE contractor employees must have medical evidence to support a diagnosis of CBD:
- A rationalized medical report including a diagnosis of CBD from a qualified physician (a diagnosis of sarcoidosis will qualify as CBD, where there is beryllium exposure), and
- A qualified physician’s opinion that that exposure to beryllium was “at least as likely as not” a significant factor in causing, contributing to, or aggravating the employee’s CBD
- DOE contractor employers who receive CBD acceptances under Part B are presumed eligible under Part E for their CBD
- A positive BeLPT result is necessary to establish beryllium sensitivity
What are the Benefits for CBD accepted under Part E?
- Employees receive payment of medical expenses beginning on the date the claim is filed
- Employees are entitled to payments based on the level of their whole body impairment and/or years of qualifying wage loss, up to a maximum of $250,000
- Eligible survivors may receive a lump sum payment of $125,000, and if the employee had wage loss from CBD, possibly additional wage-loss compensation (divided equally)
Major DOE Sites Where Beryllium Was Used
- Bethlehem Steel, Lackawanna New York
- Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Upton New York
- Feeds Material Production Center (FMPC), Fernald Ohio
- Hanford Site, Hanford Washington
- Idaho National Laboratory (INL), Southern Idaho
- Iowa Army Ammunition Plant, Burlington Iowa
- Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25), Paducah Kentucky
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Livermore California
- Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Sante Fe New Mexico
- Nevada Test Site (NTS), Las Vegas Nevada
- Pacific Proving Ground, Marshall Islands
- Pantex Plant, Amarillo Texas
- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland Washington
- Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), Portsmouth Ohio
- Rocky Flats Plant, Boulder Colorado
- Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Livermore California
- Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken South Carolina
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge Tennessee