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Workplace injuries: Exposure level to beryllium targeted

Beryllium is a metal that is used in a variety of industries such as aerospace, nuclear weapons, electronics and more. Although the largest manufacturer of beryllium in the United States is based in another state, workers in Oklahoma and other states may be exposed to dangerous levels of this metal. Workplace injuries to the lungs can be caused when the metal is ground to dust in certain industries.

In a recently proposed amendment of permissible levels of exposure to beryllium, the current level of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air will be lowered to .02 micrograms. Inhaling fumes or dust from beryllium can cause chronic beryllium disease. It is incurable and increases the risk of lung cancer. It is estimated that the lower exposure limits could prevent 100 worker deaths and about 50 workplace illnesses per year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that the number of workers nationwide who are exposed to the beryllium hazard is as high as 35,000. The threat is highest for workers in smelting operations and foundries, manufacturers of beryllium oxide ceramics and composites, dental laboratories and nuclear weapon manufacturers. Since 2000, nearly 2,500 nuclear workers who have developed this disease have received workers' compensation benefits totaling in excess of  $500 million.

Oklahoma workers who are exposed to beryllium or other dangers that can cause workplace injuries or illnesses may benefit by scheduling regular medical evaluations. As soon as there is any indication of a work-related illness or injury, a worker may be entitled to pursue a claim for workers' comp benefits, including coverage for medical expenses and lost income from work. Proving that such an illness is work-related may be tricky, and the assistance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney may be invaluable.

Source: news9.com, "Obama administration plans new workplace limits on beryllium", Aug. 6, 2015

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