It was American workers on the world’s first atomic bomb who became the first industrial victims of beryllium, a rare but especially light, stable and strong metal whose toxic dust can kill those who breathe it.
Now Seafarers doing ship maintenance and have used Jasons De-rusting and de-scaling guns (also known as J-gun or Jasons pistol) raise concerns about exposure to beryllium.
Unlike other metals, beryllium does not spark and was therefore used on tanker ships containing fuel.
Beryllium can cause a long-term lung disease (berylliosis) in some people by triggering an immune (allergic) response in the body. In general, significant exposure to beryllium in a respirable form is required for any disease to occur, and symptoms may take up to 20 years to develop even after exposure has stopped.
Beryllium dust can cause fatal and untreatable lung disease, similar to asbestosis.
The symptoms of berylliosis include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, weight loss and fatigue. These symptoms are common, so that most people who have these symptoms do not have berylliosis. Occasionally, other areas of the body like the skin, eyes, mouth & nose may develop a rash following contact with dust containing beryllium.
There is no preventive or curative treatment available for berylliosis or chronic beryllium disease.