ACOEM Expresses Appreciation for Amendment Protecting Construction and Maritime Workers from Beryllium

June 27, 2019

The Honorable Bobby Scott, Chairman
Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Scott:
On behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), I am writing to express our support for your amendment that was adopted during House consideration of Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020.
Your amendment protects construction and shipyard workers from the hazards of beryllium. It does so by prohibiting the Department of Labor from spending funds to roll back health standards, previously adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that protect workers from this cancer-causing substance.
ACOEM has long supported protecting construction and shipyard workers.  In comments submitted to OSHA in 2017, ACOEM vigorously encouraged OSHA to retain the medical surveillance, medical removal, and other ancillary standards for both construction and shipyard workers whenever airborne or dermal exposure to beryllium is a significant possibility, as defined in the OSHA standard in other industries. ACOEM said in its comments, “The experience of the Department of Energy facilities has clearly demonstrated that individuals in the building trades can be affected by beryllium. Even relatively small exposures can be a concern, since beryllium is a sensitizer. Multiple studies have demonstrated risk for workers who are considered dust disturbers, including those involved in demolition. Research has also shown that the risk applies to individuals across the full range of beryllium forms, including beryllium oxides, alloys, and salts, as fumes and as dust. It makes no sense to diminish the protections for certain employment sectors against beryllium disease.”
Please let us know how we may be of assistance as this provision moves to the Senate for consideration,
Thank you for your continued leadership on behalf of workers.
Stephen A Frangos, MD, MPH, FACOEM President