Online Program

Absenteeism and beryllium sensitization among US department of energy workers

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Bonnie Richter, M.P.H., Ph.D., Office of Health and Safety, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC
Janice Watkins, M.S., Center for Epidemiologic Research, Oak Ridge Associated Universities
Donna Cragle, PhD, Occupational Exposure and Worker Health Programs, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, TN
Elizabeth Ellis, MS, PhD, Occupational Exposure and Worker Health Programs, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, TN
Clifton Strader, PhD, Office of Health and Safety - HS-10, US Department of Energy, Washington, DC, DC
Background: Beryllium is a soft, white metal that has been used by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in many nuclear operations and processes. These operations included melting, grinding, and machine tooling of beryllium parts. Inhalation of beryllium dust or particles can cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD) or beryllium sensitization (BeS). CBD is a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal lung condition. BeS is a condition in which a person's immune system becomes highly responsive (allergic) to the presence of beryllium in the body. Objectives: Because CBD damages the respiratory system, individuals identified as having CBD or BeS might be more likely to be absent from work due to respiratory illnesses than workers without these conditions. The primary purpose of this investigation was to examine whether absences, particularly from respiratory diseases, were associated with beryllium status. Methods: All cause and respiratory absences that occurred between 2002 and 2011 among 19,305 DOE beryllium workers were examined. Survival analyses compared time to first absence for person-years stratified by beryllium status. Based on absenteeism before and after sensitization, multivariate logistic regression provided odds ratios to compare the two strata. Secondary analyses examined beryllium status by occupational group. Results: Beryllium sensitized workers have excess absences compared to coworkers with normal beryllium status. In addition, the time to first absence was shorter among those with BeS/CBD. Line operators/crafts workers were more likely to become beryllium sensitized than workers performing other job tasks.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the impact of occupational beryllium exposure to worker’s health. Compare absenteeism among workers who are sensitized to beryllium or have chronic beryllium disease to workers who do not have these conditions.

Keyword(s): Occupational Surveillance, Occupational Disease

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As the senior epidemiologist and former Office Director, I developed and implemented the beryllium registry for the Department of Energy about 12 years ago. I have either contributed to the policy and directions, or have had my staff and contractor staff (ORAU) in this project since its development. I have also supervised the program manager, and contracotr staff, and have been directly involved in policies and analyses related to the Illness and Injury Surveillance database.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.