Since the 1940’s, beryllium, a naturally occurring element, has been used increasingly in various industrial applications in the United States of America. Beryllium is a metal, notably lighter than aluminum, especially useful because of its rigid quality. Beryllium is used in the defense industry, the automotive and aerospace industries, in electronics, and in the manufacture of dental and medical equipment and supplies.
Unfortunately, exposure to the dust, fumes, and mist resulting from the machining, sanding, grinding and cutting of beryllium alloys is capable of causing potentially fatal chronic disease in an unknown percentage of exposed persons. Exposure occurs through the inhalation of beryllium dust at a work site or even at home, from dust-contaminated work clothes. The disease process, which primarily affects the lung tissue by forming cell clusters called granulomas, may not result in chronic health effects for months, or even for years. However, when chronic beryllium disease does occur, it can result in premature death.
Chronic beryllium disease causes inflammation of lung tissue which restricts the exchange of oxygen between the lungs and the blood stream. Symptoms range from chronic cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath to the inability to take in enough oxygen, in severe cases, to maintain life. There is no cure for chronic beryllium disease, although treatment is available in most cases and may alleviate symptoms in some sufferers.
Harmful exposure to beryllium dust may occur at levels so low that the presence of contamination can only be detected by sophisticated measuring devices. The problem is compounded by the fact that while only a certain percentage of the population may be susceptible, there is no reliable way to determine susceptibility in advance of exposure.
Western New Yorkers have been exposed to beryllium by working in industries that manufacture and distribute metal alloys used in making dental and medical supplies. Western New Yorkers have also been exposed to beryllium dust, fumes and mist by performing contract work at a manufacturing facility in Elmore, Ohio owned and operated by the world’s largest producer of beryllium and beryllium alloys, Brush Wellman Corporation. Our firm is currently handling chronic beryllium disease claims for individuals who have been exposed both in the Buffalo area and in Ohio. We are aware that some of our clients and their families and friends may also have been exposed to beryllium in other contexts. Please call our office if you believe that you were exposed to beryllium.