Summary of historical beryllium uses and airborne concentration levels at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Aleksandr B. Stefaniak, Virginia M. Weaver, Maureen Cadorette, Leslie G. Puckett, Brian S. Schwartz, Laurie D. Wiggs, Mark D. Jankowski, Patrick N. Breysse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Beryllium operations and accompanying medical surveillance of workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory began in the 1940s. In 1999 a Former Workers Medical Surveillance Program that includes screening for chronic beryllium disease was initiated. As part of this program, historical beryllium exposure conditions were reconstructed from archived paper and electronic industrial hygiene data sources to improve understanding of past beryllium uses and airborne concentration levels. Archived industrial hygiene sampling reports indicated beryllium was principally used in technical areas-01 and -03, primarily being machined. Beryllium was also used at 15 other technical areas in activities that ranged from explosives detonation to the manufacture of X-ray windows. A total of 4528 personal breathing zone and area air samples for beryllium, combined for purposes of calculating summary statistics, were identified during the records review phase. The geometric mean airborne beryllium concentration for the period 1949-1989 for all technical areas was 0.04 μg Be/m3 with 97 percent of all sample below the 2.0 μg Be/m3 occupational exposure limit (OEL). Average beryllium concentrations per decade were less than 1 μg Be/m3 and annual geometric mean concentrations in technical area-03, the largest user of beryllium, were generally below 0.1 μg Be/m3, indicating exposure was generally well-controlled, that is, below the OEL. Typical of many retrospective exposure assessments, not all archived data could be extracted and summarized. Despite this, we report a reasonable summary of potential beryllium uses and airborne concentration levels a worker may have encountered from 1949-1989. These data can be used to more effectively identify former worker populations at potential risk for chronic beryllium disease and to offer these workers screening as part of the Former Worker Medical Surveillance Program, and in the event that a case is diagnosed, help to understand historical exposure conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-715
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003


  • Chronic Beryllium Disease
  • Historical Exposure
  • Machining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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