Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) is a debilitating lung disease that is contracted by workers and residents living near plants that refine beryllium for industrial use. It is a brittle, gray metal, a component of coal, oil, other rock minerals, volcanic dust, and soil, that is used in a number of industries:
- Dentistry (for crowns, bridges, and dental plates
- Ceramic manufacturing
- The atomic energy industry
- Metal works (including aerospace components)
- Laboratory research and development
- Extraction of ore and scrap metal
While most employees and nearby residents are not affected by the levels of beryllium resulting from the extraction and manufacturing of products from beryllium, there are some workers more likely to be exposed to damaging levels of the metal resulting in an incurable, but rarely deadly, disease.
Risks and Symptoms of Beryllium
Generally, only 1 to 6% of those who work with beryllium face CBD. However, there are some positions that see disease rates of more than 16%. Those individuals have usually been exposed to beryllium for years on a regular basis, resulting in lasting lung damage. The symptoms of CBD can include any or all of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Night sweats
There are a number of treatments that can help control the disease and its symptoms, but as of yet, there is no cure.
Beryllium Claims and Lawsuits
There have been lawsuits in states all over the country as a result of CBD. In some cases, employees are filing suit merely to have their employers provide blood tests to determine if the disease is prevalent in the workplace. And while CBD cases are relatively rare, the symptoms can take decades to appear. It is possible than many more employees and neighbors of beryllium plants are carrying the disease and have yet to discover it. For employees, their employers often hope to convince them to take worker’s compensation benefits for CBD cases; however if they do so, they have to give up their right to sue.
In addition, the Energy Employee’s Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000 provides government benefits to those workers who have contracted Chronic Beryllium Disease. However, like worker’s compensation benefits, those who seek this compensation give up their right to sue. It is important to note that often government funds allocated for these Acts run out before claimants do. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine the best course of action.
Legal Help from a Lawyer
Beryllium cases are not new. Skilled personal injury attorneys are familiar with the options available to those who suffer from CBD. Those who have been injured as a result of working in a beryllium plant or living near one should consult an experienced lawyer who can guide them through the process of determining the value of a case, filing and compiling the facts, and resolving the case for settlement.