OSHA is asking for comments from the public to help them determine the best way to address occupational exposures to beryllium.

The request for information was published in the Nov. 26 Federal Register.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal found in coal, oil, certain rock minerals, volcanic dust and soil. It's used by the aerospace, nuclear and manufacturing industries, and is found in dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools and various electronic applications. The metal is also toxic and can cause lung cancer and skin disease.

OSHA's request for information covers numerous topics including employee exposure, health effects, risk assessment, exposure assessment and monitoring methods, control measures and technological feasibility, economic impacts, employee training, medical surveillance, and environmental and small business impacts.

OSHA's current general industry standard sets a permissible exposure limit for beryllium at two micrograms per cubic meter of air for an eight-hour time-weighted average or five micrograms per cubic meter of air not to exceed 30 minutes at a time. OSHA says employees should never be exposed to more than 25 micrograms of the metal, regardless of how short the exposure.

Comments must be submitted by Feb. 24, 2003. To submit comments by regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery or messenger service, send three copies and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. H005C, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.

You may also fax comments (10 pages or fewer) to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. Include the docket number in your comments.

Finally, comments may be submitted electronically through the Internet at http://ecomments.osha.gov.

More information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.