electric competition
pollution prevention

Ohio Citizen Action wants
beryllium banned in dentistry

For Release:
February 21, 2001

For more information:
Amy Ryder, (216) 861-5200

CLEVELAND -- Ohio Citizen Action today released a report showing dental lab employees are working with a deadly metal and likely have little knowledge of its toxicity. The group says that some dental laboratory suppliers are withholding life-saving information from the workers handling beryllium.

"Dental laboratory technicians are being lied to about the health hazards of beryllium," said Amy Ryder, Cleveland Director of Ohio Citizen Action. "There should be an immediate ban on all dental alloys containing any level of beryllium."

Beryllium exposure can cause beryllium disease and cancer. Beryllium disease is an incurable, often fatal, lung ailment. Beryllium is recognized as a cancer causing chemical by the National Toxicology Program, and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires companies to prepare and distribute Material Safety Data Sheets to customers handling their dangerous materials. In addition to first aid and safe handling recommendations, federal law requires companies to warn workers of known health hazards and if the material is recognized as a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Citizen Action’s report reviewed Material Safety Data Sheets from five dental laboratory suppliers and surveyed 51 dental laboratories in the Cleveland area. Of the five Material Safety Data Sheets collected, four failed to mention beryllium disease or accurately warn of the cancer risks.

Information regarding of the dangers of beryllium disease has been widely published in medical journals. Unfortunately, the dental laboratory worker most likely sees what is written in the Material Safety Data Sheet, provided by the dental laboratory supplier, or information found in trade publications. Neither of these sources of information are providing adequate warnings to dental workers.

In June 1993, an article in the American Review of Respiratory Diseases estimated "approximately 2,200 dental laboratory technicians in the United States could potentially develop this disorder [chronic beryllium disease] if proper measures are not taken to minimize exposure." Citizen Action’s report found that approximately 57% of the employees working in the Cleveland labs surveyed could have been exposed to beryllium dust or fumes. In 1988, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated there were 44,000 dental lab technicians nationwide.

Beryllium is a hard, light-weight metal used in military hardware, cars and trucks, electronics, and dental work. Brush Wellman, headquartered in Cleveland, is the largest producer of beryllium in the country.

In December, Ohio Citizen Action urged the National Association of Dental Laboratories to help notify industry workers of the dangers of beryllium and to recommend a moratorium on the use of the deadly metal. Dr. Lee Newman, beryllium expert at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, also wrote a letter to the association warning them of the dangers their members face by working with beryllium. The National Association of Dental Laboratories has not yet responded to Citizen Action’s request.

On Tuesday, Ohio Citizen Action called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch an immediate investigation into the four dental lab suppliers for violating the OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, which requires companies to notify workers of health hazards in the workplace.

Ohio Citizen Action, the state’s largest environmental group, campaigns on issues to protect public health, the environment and consumer rights.

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The following are individuals and organizations to contact for more information. Those listed here do not necessarily agree with the recommendations in the report.

Ohio Citizen Action -—

Amy Ryder, Cleveland Director
(216) 861-5200

Medical Experts -—

Dr. Kathleen Fagan, MD, Occupational Health Specialist
(440) 233-1068 – Lorain, Ohio office
(440) 366-5577 – Elyria, Ohio office

Dr. Peter Infante, Director of Standards Review
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(202) 693-2285

Dr. Lee Newman
National Jewish Medical and Research Center
(303) 398-1983

Dental Industry Experts -—

Dr. Terrence Messerman, DDS
(216) 514-3120

Charles G. Brown, Counsel,
Consumers for Dental Choice
law firm of Swankin & Turner, Washington, D.C.
(202) 462-8800

Don Roman,
Roman Porcelain Dental Studios (one of the labs surveyed for report)
(216) 581-5300

Craig Hoitash, CDT (also with Michigan Association of Dental Laboratories)
(734) 397-1399

Albino Perez, CDT, Chairman,
National Association of Dental Laboratories Health and Safety Comm.
(219) 481-6571

Dental laboratory suppliers distributing beryllium-containing alloys -—

Brush Wellman, Inc.
(800) 862-4118

Jeneric / Pentron Inc.
(800) 243-3100

Argen Corporation
(800) 255-5524

Speedent Dental Supplies
(800) 223-6322

Jack D. Silicox, Ltd.
(800) 377-1448

Talladium Incorporated
(800) 221-6449