Paper: Sarcoidosis cases in workers from British Columbian industries with potential beryllium exposure

Author(s) and Affiliation(s):
Tim K. Takaro, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU, Burnaby
Chris McLeod, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, UBC, Vancouver
Mieke Koehoorn, School of Environmental Health, UBC, Vancouver
Paul Demers, School of Environmental Health, UBC, Vancouver
Day/Time: Friday at 13:30
Room: St. Patrick Room, 3rd Floor

Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a growing problem for nations with industries that use beryllium, with cases reported from U.S., eastern Canada, Germany, France, the U.K., Sweden, Poland, S. Korea, Japan, Israel and Kazakhstan. No cases of CBD have been diagnosed in workers of British Columbia (BC) despite many potential exposure settings. This investigation identified cases of sarcoidosis, a disease often confused with CBD, between 1991 and 2006 in BC workers with potential beryllium exposure.


The study utilized administrative databases from BC’s single payer health system to link cases of sarcoidosis to employers with potential beryllium exposure. Such employers were selected a-priori based on census data, industry directories, website searches and expert opinion. Cases were either ICD-9 or ICD-10 classified sarcoidosis. Denominators were from industry estimates from 2006 Canadian Census data.


A total of 2,663 sarcoidosis cases were found in the cohort, with 201 cases in high-risk industries. The overall sarcoidosis rate in non-beryllium industries was 11.6/10,000 workers for the larger ICD-9 derived cohort (n= 1958) and 2.9 for ICD-10 cohort (2001-2006, N=504). This mean was used as a threshold to indicate elevated rates in beryllium industries. Twelve potential beryllium industries had rates > 11.6, in the early years and eight > 2.9 in the later years. The highest rates were in electric power generation, boiler, tank and container manufacture and aircraft maintenance.


We used the BC health linked databases to identify several industries in the province with potential beryllium exposure and elevated rates of sarcoidosis. Sentinel cases of beryllium sensitization or early disease might be identified in these industries using the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test.