Beryllium Health Effects on Workers

Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM

Presented By: John Balmes, MD

Dr. Balmes will review recommendations for practitioners regarding the diagnosis and management of beryllium sensitivity and chronic beryllium disease published in an official American Thoracic Society (ATS) statement in 2014. The ATS statement was prepared with the support and input of both NIOSH and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL runs the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act that provides medical monitoring and compensation for eligible employees of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facilities who develop beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease as a consequence of their employment at a DOE facility. Dr. Balmes will also discuss federal OSHA’s new Final Rule to Protect Workers from Beryllium Exposure.

 Learning Objectives

At the completion of this activity, the learner will be able to:

  • Describe how to make the diagnosis of beryllium sensitization

  • Describe how to make the diagnosis of chronic beryllium disease

  • Identify key features of the new OSHA beryllium standard


Dr. Balmes received his MD degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1976. After internal medicine training at Mount Sinai and pulmonary subspecialty, occupational medicine, and research training at Yale, he joined the faculty of USC in 1982. He joined the faculty at UCSF in 1986 and is currently Professor and Division Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). His major academic activities include his research laboratory, several collaborative epidemiological research projects, various advisory and editorial committees, and direction of the clinical occupational/environmental medicine division at SFGH.

Dr. Balmes’ laboratory, the Human Exposure Laboratory (HEL), has been studying the respiratory health effects of various air pollutants for the past 27 years. Recently, the HEL has been focusing on the airway inflammatory effects of ozone, secondhand tobacco smoke, and wood smoke. The HEL was the first group to demonstrate a) histological evidence of ozone-induced airway injury and inflammation in human subjects, b) that asthmatic subjects have greater inflammatory responses to ozone than normal subjects, c) that ozone-induced inflammatory responses in normal subjects attenuate with short-term exposures on consecutive days in the lung, and d) that asthmatic subjects recruit macrophages to the airways with consecutive day exposures. The lab is currently studying the impact of a genetic polymorphism of the antioxidant enzyme, Glutathione-S-transferase M1, on the susceptibility of asthmatic subjects to ozone. We are also studying the relationship of acute airway inflammatory responses to acute cardiovascular responses after both ozone and secondhand tobacco smoke.

Dr. Balmes is also collaborating on several epidemiological projects that are run out of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health where he is a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences. One such project is called the Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS). The overall specific goal of CHAPS is to assess the impact of air pollution on the health of children living in the San Joaquin Valley, including adverse effects on immune function that may increase the risk of asthma onset and exacerbation. A second project involves study of the effects of biomass smoke exposure on chronic respiratory health of children and adult women in rural Guatemala. A third line of research involves the effects of arsenic in drinking water on lung health in both Bangladesh and Chile. Yet another project involves the effect of chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide on lung function in Rotorua, NZ.


Industrial Hygienists: ABIH® Diplomats may be eligible to earn up to 1.0 contact hours. Visit for more information.


Nurses: COEH Continuing Education Program (BRN Provider # 12983) has approved this webinar for 1.0 contact hours.