Agent Name
Alternative Name
Beryllium and compounds
CAS Number
7440-41-7; varies
Be, varies
Major Category
Bertrandite & beryl (mineral rocks); Beryllium compounds
Beryllium Compounds, Inorganic
Metal: A hard, brittle, gray-white solid;
Of the more than 50 beryllium-containing minerals, only beryl and bertrandite have economic significance. [Reference #2] Exposure can occur in any process that produces particulate: melting, casting, dross handling, pickling, chemical cleaning, heat treating, abrasive cutting, welding, grinding, sanding, polishing, milling, or crushing; Exposure can also occur during repair and maintenance: furnace rebuilding, structural renovation, and air cleaning equipment maintenance and repair; Particulate on gloves or clothing may be transferred to breathing zone and inhaled; [Brush Wellman MSDS] "Beryllium mine and ore extraction mill workers have low rates of beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease relative to the level of beryllium exposure." [PMID 21926919] MINING AND METALLURGY: Extraction of metal from ore; Alloy production; Recycle scrap; MANUFACTURING: Nuclear absorbents; Aircraft engines, guidance systems and brakes; X-ray tube windows; Turbine reactor blades; Dental castings and prostheses; Tool & die; Sporting goods; Electrical and electronic components; High-tech ceramics including armor for military vehicles; Products from beryllium-copper alloys including springs, connectors, switches, bearings, nonsparking tools, radar, home appliances, integrated circuits, etc. USING: Weld, cut, grind, or machine Be alloys;
Ores (beryl, euclase, phenakite, chrysoberyl, and bertrandite) are not known to cause chronic beryllium disease (CBD), but epidemiology studies of miners have not been done. Alloys of beryllium including copper, aluminum, and nickel containing 1-4 % beryllium can cause CBD. Acute pneumonitis from beryllium was seen in the 1940s and 1950s when workplace exposures were higher. About 1/3 of these workers developed chronic beryllium disease. [Harber, p. 491] Beryllium salts can induce contact dermatitis. Particles of metal, oxide, and crystal that penetrate the skin can induce granulomas. It is likely that skin exposure can induce beryllium sensitization (BeS), but not CBD. CBD results from inhalation of fume or respirable dust of salts, metal, oxides, or alloys. [Rom, p. 1021-35] Beryllium and cobalt are the metals that most frequently cause skin granulomas. Beryllium "is a skin sensitizer as shown by human maximization test, and local lymph node assay." [Kanerva, p. 1540, 523] The granulomas of CBD can affect not only the lungs, but also the liver, spleen, heart, and lymph nodes. CBD can cause liver enlargement and elevated liver enzymes. [ATSDR Case Studies #19] CBD patients may develop chronic kidney disease from granulomas in the kidneys. Up to 30% of patients with CBD develop kidney stones. [LaDou, p. 422] Workers with high exposures to beryllium before the 1950s had increased risk for lung cancer. Exposure to soluble beryllium salts (sulfate, ammonium carbonate, beryllium carbonate, and beryllium hydroxide) during the extraction of metal from the ore can induce BeS. Exposure to the ore itself does not induce BeS. Improved industrial hygiene has reduced the incidence of BeS to very low levels. Beryllium are dermal sensitizers (soluble compounds) and respiratory sensitizers (soluble and insoluble compounds). [ACGIH] Beryllium is linked to lung cancer from studies of workers with beryllium disease and in a cohort of seven beryllium-processing plants. Higher risks occurred in workers with the highest exposures (hired before 1950). [Reference #2] "Induced sputum is a feasible and promising biomonitoring method that should be included in the surveillance of exposed workers." [PMID 24856577] "These results suggest that BL [borderline BeLPT results] are meaningful and that three BL results predict BeS across a broad range of population prevalences." [PMID 20957676] Also see "Risk of beryllium sensitization in a low-exposed former nuclear weapons cohort from the Cold War era" [PMID 21298695], "Beryllium disease among construction trade workers at Department of Energy nuclear sites" [PMID 23794247], and "Prevalence of beryllium sensitization among Department of Defense conventional munitions workers at low risk for exposure" [PMID 21293302] "Chronic Beryllium Disease: Update on a Moving Target" [PMID 32768458]
Use in fluorescent and neon lamp industries was banned in the 1960's.
Reference Link #1
Biomedical References

Exposure Assessment

Skin Designation (ACGIH)
5E-05 mg/m3, as Be, Inhalable particulate matter
0.0002 mg/m3, as Be, Ceiling(OSHA) = 0.002 mg/m3, as Be
4 mg/m3, as Be
Excerpts from Documentation for IDLHs
Human data: None relevant for use in determining the revised IDLH.
Explanatory Notes
Melting Point = 2349 degrees F; Skin designation for soluble compounds; [ACGIH]
Half Life
Several years; [TDR, p. 184]
Not appropriate
25 ug/m3
100 ug/m3

Adverse Effects

Toxic Pneumonitis
Hepatoxic (a) from occupational exposure (secondary effect) or (b) in animal studies or in humans after ingestion
IARC Carcinogen
NTP Carcinogen
Human carcinogen
ACGIH Carcinogen
Confirmed Human

Diseases, Processes, and Activities Linked to This Agent


Occupational diseases associated with exposure to this agent: