High tensile strength beryllium alloys, resistant to corrosion, vibration and shock, are used extensively in the aerospace industry. Beryllium alloys and ceramics are used in electronic components and in nuclear reactors.
Beryllium is one of the most toxic metals and has an extremely low occupational exposure limit. Dust, fume or vapour is absorbed through the lung and intestine. Acute effects are inflammation of the lungs and respiratory tract, dermatitis and conjunctivitis. It is a cumulative poison with chronic effects on the lung, such as breathlessness, cough, chest pain, and consequent fatigue, weakness and weight loss. The pathological finding is of a chronic pulmonary granulomatosis. Symptoms from chronic exposure may take several years to develop.
Although beryllium is an experimental carcinogen in animals, there is no clear evidence that the element is carcinogenic in humans.
Laboratory Indices of Exposure
Beryllium is measured in urine.
Stokinger HE Chapter 29 – Metals, in Patty’s Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, 3rd Revised Edition, Volume 2A. Eds Clayton GD and Clayton FE. Wiley Interscience, 1981.