Beryllium is a mineral compound found in coal, oil, certain rocks, volcanic dust and soil. It is the second-lightest of all minerals and is assigned chemical compound #4 on the periodic table. The metal is used predominantly in the aerospace, nuclear and manufacturing industries due to its lightweight nature and strength. Human exposure to beryllium is found most often in mining, extraction and the processing of allow metals.
Beryllium is linked to a condition known as Beryllium disease. Beryllium disease is caused by the inhalation of particles, dust or fumes emitted by the metal during processing. Once inhaled, the particles tend to stay affixed to the interior of the lungs which leads to a host of symptoms including rapid weight loss, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, fever and sweating. If your medical doctor suspects beryllium disease, he will order scans and tests of the lungs to reveal whether pulmonary function has been compromised.
Exposure to beryllium, and resulting Beryllium disease, is a common cause of lung cancer and other lung diseases. Early detection is the key to prevention of advanced lung afflictions as is cessation of exposure to the beryllium source. The onset of Beryllium disease is very slow and can sometimes take decades to manifest.
Workers with Beryllium disease may be eligible to file a worker’s compensation claim against their employer. This action will require the employer to reimburse the worker for lost wages and medical bills assessed due to the exposure to Beryllium on the job. The Energy Employees’ Occupational Illness Compensation Act is also available to assist those exposed to Beryllium in receiving benefits from the Department of Energy. This remedy is likely unavailable to those who have already pursued worker’s compensation claims. Always consult an experienced attorney before choosing a course of action against an employer.
There is currently no cure for Beryllium disease, but doctors are confident that reduced exposure to the metal can help patients rebound and may even induce improvement in overall health.
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