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Providing more than 20 years of health testing for beryllium workers

Beryllium Lab employees conducting BeLPT tests

Since performing its first beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test, or BeLPT, in 1993 as part of the Y-12 Beryllium Workers Research Study, the ORISE Beryllium Laboratory has expanded its program and tested workers from DOE facilities across the complex. ORAU, through its contract to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, oversees this laboratory, which is one of only three facilities in the United States approved to conduct these tests.

The BeLPT examines how a type of disease-fighting blood cell in a person’s body—called a lymphocyte—reacts to beryllium. This blood test is currently the most accurate method to identify individuals at risk of developing Chronic Beryllium Disease. The highly complex procedure takes 10 to 14 days to complete and much of the work is performed manually.

The high quality standards set by ORAU’s beryllium laboratory employees translate into the ability to deliver exacting results. Over the past 20+ years, health professionals at the laboratory have performed more than 63,000 BeLPTs, growing from 225 tests performed in its first year to an average of 4,000-5,000 in recent years. During this same time, the laboratory’s error rate has been equal to or less than 0.5 percent. In FY13, ORAU health professionals at the laboratory performed nearly 4,100 BeLPTs with zero errors.

The laboratory is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) guidelines and has been awarded the prestigious College of American Pathologists (CAP) certification. It stands as one of only three facilities in the U.S. currently performing BeLPTs. In 2013, the laboratory completed an expansion of its physical footprint to better accommodate workflow and an increased demand for these tests.