For the second time in recent years, the Beryllium Testing Laboratory managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities ended a year of testing without a single error, a press release said.
ORAU manages the Oak Ridge lab for the U.S. Department of Energy. The lab processed nearly 4,100 beryllium lymphocyte proliferation tests, or BeLPTs, in 2013, the press release said. The laboratory is one of only three in the United States that can perform the BeLPT.
The BeLPT is a blood test used to identify individuals at higher risk of developing Chronic Beryllium Disease, a chronic disease that scars the lungs, making it more difficult for oxygen to transfer into the bloodstream. The test examines how a lymphocyte, which is a type of disease-fighting blood cell in a person’s body, reacts to beryllium and can determine if an individual is developing an immune response to beryllium.
Processing the blood for the test is a complex procedure that takes 10 to 14 days to complete and must follow a strict timeline to ensure accuracy in the results, the press release said. Most of the procedure must be performed manually and must start within 24 to 30 hours of when the blood is drawn. To accommodate the national locations of patients, ORAU requires that each sample be shipped overnight to arrive in the lab the morning after it has been drawn. Once the sample is received, the actual test process begins first by using a centrifuge to separate lymphocytes from the blood sample. From there, numerous manual steps follow that include aspiration, washing, and counting cells. The cell samples are then placed into different concentrations of beryllium and allowed to grow for five and seven days to determine the cells’ reaction when exposed to this chemical element.
Reliability in tests results is critical to workers wanting to know if they have developed sensitivity to beryllium and to managers who must make recommendations about whether active workers can still work with beryllium.
The ORAU-managed beryllium laboratory in Oak Ridge is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) guidelines and has been awarded the prestigious College of American Pathologists (CAP) certification.