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Beryllium, silica continue to harm workers as OSHA waits (1 of 2)

There are many dangerous substances that put workers in Texas and the rest of the country at risk. Unfortunately, the regulations on some of these toxic substances are inadequate and non-existent. Take the light and versatile metal known as beryllium, for example. Beryllium is a specialized ceramic used in the space, defense and automotive industries.

The not-so-neat side of beryllium is that the metal's fine metallic dust can lead to a disabling condition known as beryllium disease. One plant worker from California was diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease in 2009. Since then, the 58-year-old has depended on oxygen machines to breathe and he will continue to do so until the day he dies.

The man's employer followed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations on beryllium by keeping the factory well-ventilated and providing workers with respirators to help prevent breathing the dust in. The problem is that these regulations, developed in 1949, aren't enough.

OSHA has been trying to update the standards on beryllium for the past 12 years, yet to no avail. In the meantime, workers like this California man are being subjected to dangerous conditions that are leaving them chronically ill. Similarly, regulations on silica, a dangerous mineral that also causes lung damage, have been stalled for 15 years.

Both beryllium and silica are known carcinogens, yet OSHA does not appear to be working with any urgency to implement better protection for workers. This is one of the reasons why OSHA has come under criticism from workplace safety advocates.

"These days the backlash against even the simplest efforts to protect workers is withering," explained a law school professor and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. "OSHA hasn't made a serious run at regulating chemicals in the workplace in a couple of decades."

Please check back later this week for more on this important issue.

Source: iWatch News, "OSHA rules on workplace toxics stalled," Jim Morris, June 4, 2012

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