Chemical Pneumonia in Workers Extracting Beryllium Oxide
H. S. VanORDSTRAND, M.D.
ROBERT HUGHES, M.D.
MORRIS G. CARMODY, M.D., F. A. C. S.
In the past 22 months 3 men employed in the extraction of beryllium oxide from the raw ore have been seen at the Cleveland Clinic. They presented symptoms of a chemical pneumonia which we believed to be attributable to their occupation. In each patient the syndrome was characteristic and identical, and in each recovery was complete. One man returned to the same occupation, developed a recurrence of his initial pneumonia, and is again making a satisfactory recovery.
We believe that the chemical pneumonia is due to the inhalation of irritants in the process of the extraction of beryllium oxide. The specific etiologic agent is unknown. It may not be beryllium per se but chemical compounds formed outside or inside the respiratory tract during the processing of the ore.
Beryllium belongs to the same chemical group as magnesium and calcium. It is usually found as beryl, a double silicate of beryllium and aluminum. It is used as an alloy to harden and strengthen other metals; it prevents corrosion, augments the electric conductivity of copper, and is easily permeable to x-rays as is shown in figure 1.
In the American literature we have been unable to find a reference to the toxicity of beryllium or its compounds. In the foreign literature Caccuri1 reported experimentally produced hepatic and renal changes in beryllium poisoning. He studied the effects of beryllium carbonate, nitrate, and oxide on the liver and kidney in rabbits and found that the nitrate causes the greatest damage. Volter2 reported the experimental. . .