Under new federal guidelines, former employees of Goleta’s Lebow Company who suffered adverse medical effects from working with beryllium will now be eligible for up to $150,000 in compensation and full medical benefits. The new guidelines will also apply to 16 other California companies who sell beryllium.

“This is something we know nothing about and something about which we have absolutely no opinion,” Edward Graper of Lebow Company said.

The companies produced beryllium products for the Sandia National Laboratories, one of the four Dept. of Energy nuclear labs. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the permissible level of exposure for beryllium is two micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period. That means on a regular workday, if a lab were the size of an average bedroom, it should contain an average amount of beryllium weighing only 0.00003 times the weight of a paperclip.

Over time, workers develop an allergy to beryllium. Eventually, allergic symptoms can lead to a debilitating, sometimes fatal lung disease, known as chronic beryllium disease or CBD. Workers with CBD also show an increased risk of lung cancer. Exposure to beryllium dust can also cause skin disease, which includes delayed healing of cuts and wounds and the formation of a rash or wart-like bumps on the skin.

California will soon have 35 nuclear facilities – more than any other state, with the exception of New York. However, unlike states with far fewer facilities, it has no federal resource center to assist workers in pursuing claims for compensation.

Workers may apply for compensation through the Dept. of Energy.