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Beryllium

Beryllium, atomic number 4, is a brittle, steel-gray metal found as a component of coal, oil, certain rock minerals, volcanic dust, and soil. Elemental beryllium is the second lightest of all metals and is used in a wide variety of applications. In its elemental form beryllium exhibits the unique properties of being light weight and extremely stiff, giving the metal several applications in the aerospace, nuclear, and manufacturing industries. In addition, beryllium is amazingly versatile as a metal alloy where it is used in dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools, wheel chairs, and electronic devices.

Standards

Exposures to beryllium are addressed in specific standards for general industry. This section highlights OSHA standards, Federal Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices), the Regulatory Agenda (a list of actions being taken with regard to OSHA standards), and other federal standards related to beryllium.

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

OSHA

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Federal Registers

  • Occupational Exposure to Beryllium; Request for Information. Notice 67:70707-70712, (2002, November 26). OSHA requests information and comment on issues related to occupational exposure to beryllium, including current employee exposures to beryllium; the relationship between exposure to beryllium and the development of adverse health effects; exposure assessment and monitoring methods; exposure control methods; employee training; medical surveillance for adverse health effects related to beryllium exposure; and other pertinent subjects. The information received in response to this document will assist the Agency in determining an appropriate course of action regarding occupational beryllium exposure.

  • Search all available Federal Registers.

Regulatory Agenda

Other Federal

Note: These are not OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection.

Department of Energy (DOE)

  • 10 CFR Part 850 Part II [373 KB PDF, 8 pages]. Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program; Final Rule Amendments. (2006, February 9).

  • 10 CFR Part 850 [400 KB PDF, 62 pages]. Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program; Final Rule. (1999, December 8).

Other Resources

  • Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program. US Department of Energy (DOE), (1999, December 8). Provides links to DOE policies, guidance, training regarding beryllium and a search feature of DOE resources through the responses to inquiries link.

Hazard Recognition

  • Preventing Adverse Health Effects from Exposure to Beryllium on the Job. OSHA Hazard Information Bulletin (HIB), (1999, September 2). Alerts employees working with beryllium about the hazards associated with their work. OSHA has recent information suggesting that the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium in the workplace may not be adequate to prevent the occurrence of chronic beryllium disease (CBD) among exposed workers.

  • Criteria Document for Beryllium. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1977, August 19). Testimony to the US Department of Labor (DOL) on the effects of occupational exposure to beryllium and results of studies conducted by NIOSH.

  • TOXNET for Beryllium, Elemental. The National Library of Medicine Hazardous Substance Database.

  • Beryllium compounds (as Be). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (1994, May). Provides an Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) document that includes acute toxicity data for beryllium.

  • Report on Carcinogens (ROC). US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP). Identifies and discusses agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [614 KB PDF, 26 pages]. World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Classification: Carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).

  • Toxicological Profile for Beryllium. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2002, September). Provides exposure risks, exposure limits, and health effects for beryllium.

  • ToxFAQs - Beryllium. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2002, September). Answers the most frequently asked health questions about beryllium.

  • Public Health Statement for Beryllium. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), (2002, September). Provides exposure risks, exposure limits, and health effects of exposure to beryllium.

  • Beryllium and compounds (CASRN 7440-41-7). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).

  • Beryllium Compounds. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lists beryllium as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) under the National Emissions Standard Hazardous Air Pollutants section of its Clean Air Act.

  • Beryllium [362 KB PDF, 6 pages]. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet, (2007, April). Provides a summary source of information of all potential and most severe health hazards that may result from beryllium exposure.

  • Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program. US Department of Energy (DOE), (1999, December 8). Provides links to DOE policies, guidance, and training regarding beryllium.

  • Beryllium Associated Workers - Other. Fermilab Environmental Safety and Health (ES&H). References Fermilab's ES&H manual and links to other beryllium related information.

  • International Chemical Safety Cards: Beryllium. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), (2008, January). Summarizes essential health and safety information on beryllium.

Health Effects

Chronic beryllium disease (CBD)

Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) occurs when people inhale beryllium dust or fume and can take anywhere from a few months to 30 years to develop. CBD is caused by an immune system reaction to beryllium metal, with symptoms such as persistent coughing, difficulty breathing upon physical exertion, fatigue, chest and joint pain, weight loss, and fevers.

  • Middleton, D.C. "Chronic beryllium disease: uncommon disease, less common diagnosis." Environmental Health Perspectives 106.12(1998). Discusses methods to diagnose chronic beryllium disease (CBD).

  • Newman, L.S., et al. "The natural history of beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease." Environmental Health Perspectives 104.S-5(1996). Reviews what was known about the natural history of clinical chronic beryllium disease (CBD) in the era that preceded the use of immunologic markers, review data from recent studies of patients with beryllium sensitization and early disease, and summarize the methodology being used in ongoing longitudinal studies designed to address some of the questions listed above.

Acute Beryllium Disease (ABD)

Acute Beryllium Disease (ABD) rarely occurs in modern industry due to improved industrial protective measures designed to reduce exposure levels. ABD is caused by breathing in relatively high concentrations of beryllium in dust and metal fumes (>100 µg/m3). High level exposures may lead to death or respiratory illness similar to pneumonia or bronchitis. Symptoms associated with ABD include difficulty breathing, cough, and chest pain. These symptoms occur much more rapidly than those associated with chronic beryllium disease (CBD).

  • Lang, L. "Beryllium: A Chronic Problem [6 MB PDF, 6 pages]." Environmental Health Perspectives 102.6-7(1994). Reviews the causes of acute beryllium disease (ABD).

Exposure Evaluation

Air, wipe, and bulk sampling techniques are used to measure occupational exposures to beryllium. The following references provide exposure limits and analytical methods used to evaluate beryllium hazards in the workplace.

Analytical Methods

OSHA

OSHA has developed and validated methods for use by the Salt Lake Technical Center (SLTC) laboratory. The following method has been adopted by many laboratories for the analysis of chemical compounds.

For additional information, see OSHA's Sampling and Analysis Safety and Health Topics Page.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

Possible Solutions

Controlling the exposure to beryllium can be done through engineering controls, administrative actions, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Engineering controls include such things as isolating the source and using ventilation systems to control dust. Administrative actions include limiting the worker's exposure time and providing showers. PPE includes wearing the proper respiratory protection and clothing. The following resources contain information to help control beryllium hazards in the workplace.

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 2005-149, (2007, September). Provides physical description, exposure limits, measurement method, personal protection & sanitation, first aid, respirator recommendations, exposure routes, symptoms, target organs, and cancer sites.
  • Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) No. 81-123, (1981, January). Contains information on identification, physical and chemical properties, health hazards, exposure limits, exposure sources and control methods, monitoring, personal hygiene, storage, spills and leaks, and personal protective equipment.

  • Beryllium. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Provides links to sources of information on a variety of topics relating to beryllium.

  • Preventing Adverse Health Effects from Exposure to Beryllium in Dental Laboratories. OSHA Hazard Information Bulletin (HIB), (2002, April 19 - Revised May 2002). Informs employers and employees about the risk of dental laboratory technicians developing chronic beryllium disease (CBD). It also provides information on the ways in which beryllium exposures can be reduced and the type of protective equipment which can be worn to reduce exposure.

  • Beryllium Program - Beryllium at Hanford. Department of Energy Hanford. Provides information for Hanford employees who are concerned about beryllium. The information presented has been provided by site contractors.

  • For additional information on general safety and health concerns, see OSHA's Safety and Health Topics Pages on:

Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages

Training

  • Communicating Health Risks Working Safely with Beryllium [1 MB PDF, 160 pages]. Department of Energy (DOE), (2002, April). These training materials have been designed for use by any DOE site that conducts training on the health risks of beryllium.

  • Beryllium - Beryllium Research Highlights. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Provides information on completed studies, current research findings, and future activities to the participants in NIOSH beryllium research in newsletter format.

  • Brochures. OSHA. As part of an internal employee outreach program, OSHA developed a series of brochures to help its staff understand the health effects of beryllium and the Agency's internal pilot medical monitoring program.

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