January 20, 2005

OSHA inspectors suffer effects of beryllium exposure

Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is an irreversible, debilitating and potentially fatal lung disease that occurs from exposure to beryllium. In 2004, after much foot-dragging, OSHA began monitoring inspectors for exposure to the substance. First results show that at least three workers, or 1.5 percent of the 200 inspectors examined so far, have become sensitized to beryllium.

Occupational Hazards reports on this story and the history of the OSHA beryllium issue, along with comments by Adam Finkel, a former OSHA regional administrator and whistleblower whose actions sparked the eventual testing of workers.

"Finkel filed a whistleblower complaint on the beryllium issue in 2003, charging that he was transferred because he was pushing for beryllium testing that neither the OSHA Administrator at the time, John Henshaw, nor his deputy, Davis Layne, wanted. The agency denied the retaliation claim, and according to the settlement agreement Finkel no longer works in an OSHA program: He now teaches at Princeton University.

Both Layne and Henshaw resigned from OSHA in December. Soon after Layne was charged with overseeing the beryllium program earlier last year, he declared that even though he had been exposed to the hazard he would not be tested for exposure. "I just don't think it's anything that I'm concerned about," he explained at the time."

It's boggling to think that OSHA officials would brush this aside, especially in that beryllium figured so prominently in the Department of Energy's settlement with energy workers which we discussed in September and again in November. Go figure. Not very encouraging from an agency that is supposed to be advocating for the health and safety of the nation's workers. This is a story that bears watching.

More beryllium information:
Beryllium Fact Sheet from ATSDR
OSHA on beryllium
Beryllium: A 'Deadly Alliance'
Chronic Beryllium Disease Sufferers Get Recognition

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This page contains a single entry by Julie Ferguson published on January 20, 2005 1:22 AM.

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