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Beryllium monoxide toxicology, by Edouard Bastarache
- CAS number : 1304-56-9
- UN number : UN1566
- Molecular formula : BeO
- Molecular weight: 25.01
- Main Synonyms:
- French Names :
- Oxyde de
- Oxyde de glucinium (old
- English Names :
- Beryllium oxide,
- Uses and Sources of
- -in ceramics,
- -in electronics and
- -in the manufacture of
- -as chemical catalyst,
- -as regulator in nuclear
- -as refractory material in
the metallurgy of rare earths,
- -in high power laser tubes,
- -in microwave
telecommunication systems and as components of
- -in windows of X-ray
transmitters used under extreme conditions,
- Hygiene and
- I-Appearance :
- Beryllium oxide is a solid
crystal or a fine amorphous, white and odourless
powder according to the heat treatment at the time of
- II-Physical Properties
- Odor : None
- Color :
- Physical State :
- Melting Point (F) :
- Solubility (BeO) :
- Density (g/cc) : 2.86
- III-Inflammability :
- This product is non
- Heating of beryllium oxide
with magnesium powder can cause an explosive reaction.
- V-Techniques and Means
for Extinguishing Fire :
- Use any means appropriate
for the surrounding materials.
- Special techniques:
- Beryllium monoxide released
from a beryllium fire is very toxic: wear an
autonomous respiratory protection gear and protective
clothing covering all of the body.
- After a beryllium fire,
decontamination must be carried out by qualified
- VI-Products of
- Beryllium oxide does not
- Prevention :
- I-Protection Means :
- When engineering measures
and modifications of working methods are not
sufficient to reduce the exposure to this substance,
the wearing of an individual protection apparatus can
- These protection gears must
be in accordance with the regulation.
- In the presence of powder or
dust of beryllium oxide, wear a respiratory protection
apparatus if the concentration in the work environment
is higher than the action level and even when the
exposure is lower than this one.
- III-Skin Protection
- Wear skin protection. The
choice of a skin protection gear depends on the nature
of the work to carry out. In the presence of powder or
dust of beryllium oxide, wear protective clothing
covering all of the body.
- IV-Ocular Protection :
- Wear ocular protection. The
choice of an ocular protection gear depends on the
nature of the work to carry out and, if it is
necessary, of the type of respiratory protection gear
- Reactivity :
- I-Stability :
- This product is stable under
normal conditions of use.
- Heated in the presence of
magnesium, it reacts violently and can produce an
- None, this product is stable
even at its melting point (2 530 °C).
- Handling :
- I-When possible, use
substitution products having less harmful effects, or
a wet process.
- II-Avoid any
operation or process which can produce fine particles
or a cloud of dust.
containment of processes, consider and install
aspiration at the source.
- IV-Reduce the number
and the surface of the areas where there is a risk of
exposure to beryllium and its compounds, just as the
number of workers having access to these
- V-Use high efficiency
filter vacuum cleaners against particles (HEPA) to
clean the equipment and the floor of the working area.
- VI-Avoid any skin and
- VII- Do not eat and
do not drink while using this product.
- VIII-Observe very
strict personal hygiene. Wash and change clothing
separate town and working clothes (Double locker).
Protection gears and working clothes including shoes,
should not leave the workplace.
- X-Double lockers
should be available to workers, one for work clothes,
the other for personal clothes.
- Storage :
- Store away from places where
fire hazards are high, away from incompatible
products, in a cool and well ventilated place.
Moreover, if the product is in the form of powder,
store in a tight container, well
- Leaks :
- I-Because of its
toxicity, every precaution must be taken to avoid a
leak or a spill of this product.
- II-If the product is
used as particules or if there is dust, establish a
limited access zone and limit access until cleaning is
completed. Cleaning should be carried out only by
- III-Do not touch
damaged containers or leaked products without wearing
protective clothing covering all of the body and an
autonomous respiratory protection gear.
- IV-Prevent the
formation of clouds of dust.
- V-Collect dust by
using a wet process or a high efficiency filtering
vacuum cleaner against particles (HEPA).
- VI-Collect in a
hermetic container duly identified by using a suitable
technique in order to prevent the contamination of the
- This product should not be
dispersed into the environment. Beryllium oxide wastes
in the form of powder or dust must be recovered in a
sealed container identified and handed over to a firm
which recycles it. If necessary, consult concerned
- I- Toxicokinetics
- A-Absorption :
- 1-Pulmonary Absortion :
- An exposure to airborne
beryllium in excess of the occupational standard can
- A-When powdered
beryllium oxide is handled.
- B-In metallurgy, if
beryllium-containing materials are melted or casted
and at the time of handling of slags and scum.
- C-When abrasive
cutting, machining, grinding, sanding, polishing or
crushing pieces containing beryllium oxide.
- D-When heat treating
metal pieces containing beryllium or at the time of
any process implying heating, such as welding or
cutting with a blowtorch.
- E-At the time of
maintenance, cleaning or repairing equipment
contaminated such as furnaces, tanks or boilers in
sectors such as petroleum, metallurgy or
- F-When sorting,
handling or recycling electronic parts intended for
- G-Volatile beryllium
hydroxide can be formed when firing solid BeO parts at
temperature greater than 900 oC in a moist atmosphere
such as in a hydrogen atmosphere sintering
- a-Insoluble compounds :
- The pulmonary clearance
occurs very slowly. What was not eliminated quickly,
by the mucociliary activity or phagocytosis of the
particles, is retained several months in the lungs and
is gradually released into the blood.
- b-Soluble compounds :
- The pulmonary clearance
occurs quickly by dissolution in the pulmonary fluids
and a variable proportion passes into blood.
clearance of low temperature calcined
beryllium oxide would be faster than that of
high temperature calcined beryllium oxide
because of its greater solubility.
- 2-Skin Absorption :
- Beryllium and its compounds
are practically not absorbed through intact skin
because they bind to components of the skin (proteins
and nucleic acids) to form lowly diffusible complexes.
However, it is thought that skin contact can
especially play a part in sensitizing following
exposure to fine particles.
- 3-Digestive Absorption :
- Beryllium and its compounds
are only very slightly absorbed by the digestive
tract. The absorbed amount depends on the dose and the
solubility of the compounds. This amount is limited by
the formation of insoluble colloidal phosphates in the
- B-Distribution :
- Absorbed beryllium
compounds, are transported in the body adsorbed on
plasmatic proteins in the form of colloidal phosphate.
In the short run, they tend to accumulate in
the liver especially in the cases of important
exposures. In the long run, one finds them
mainly in the lymphatic ganglia and the bones. They
were also identified in the blood of the umbilical
cord and maternal blood.
- C-Metabolism :
- Beryllium and its compounds
are not metabolized. In the lungs, soluble beryllium
salts are partially transformed into insoluble salts.
- The beryllium ion inhibits
in a competitive way many enzymes activated by
magnesium or manganese, in particular alkaline
- The immunological action
probably goes through the formation of a
beryllium-protein complex, because of the small
molecular weight of beryllium.
- D-Excretion :
- Compounds absorbed into the
body are excreted mainly in the urine. Compounds which
are not absorbed into the body are excreted mainly in
the feces following ingestion by the oral route or by
the pulmonary mucociliary clearance, and the excretion
depends on the solubility of the ingested compounds.
- Beryllium compounds have
also been identified in mother's milk and colostrum.
- Mobilization and excretion
can continue during several years and persist a very
long time after the cessation of exposure.
- There is no obvious
correlation between the presence or the severity of
berylliosis and the urinary beryllium
- E-Half-Life :
- There are no precise data in
human beings but, one can say that in general
according to animal studies, the insoluble or not very
soluble compounds and the soluble compounds, are
cleared from the pulmonary tissue in a biphasic way
initially with a half-life of a few days during which
30 to 50 % of the beryllium is eliminated.
- The second phase which
varies according to the solubility of the compounds
suggests that the half-life of the soluble compounds
is of about a few weeks or a month while it varies
from months to years for the compounds which are
little or not soluble.
- The half-life in the
whole body can be several years.
- F-Biological Data :
- An exposure to 2
µg/m³ of beryllium in the air corresponds to
approximately 7 µg/L. in the urine and 4
µg/L. in the blood. For a non-professionally
exposed population the urinary beryllium concentration
is less than 0,9 µg/l.
- The EPA (USA ) has estimated
that the total amount of beryllium absorbed daily by
the general population is 423 ng following the
inhalation of ambient air and from the ingestion of
food and water. The most important contribution comes
from the ingestion of water (300 ng) and food (120
- G-Sensitive Population :
- Several studies suggest that
genetic susceptibility can play an important role in
the development of berylliosis. People suffering from
chronic berylliosis are carrying more frequently than
controls a genetic marker : (HLA-DPB1 Glu69). This
allele would be present in 85 to 95% of the patients
and in only 30 to 45 % of the controls.
- II-Acute Effects
- A-Inhalation :
- It is benign and heals in
one to four weeks.
- 2-Chemical Pneumonitis :
- Ambient concentrations above
25 µg/m³ beryllium are usually associated
with this acute form, but these exposures are rare
- It can occur within 72 hours
after a massive exposure to low temperature
calcined beryllium oxide. This was not reported
following exposure to high temperature calcined
- a-Symptoms :
- The following symptoms were
- - cough,
- - sensation of retrosternal
- - increasing dyspnea,
- - effects on the general
state resulting in :
- * light fever,
- * feeling of weakness
- * tiredness,
- - cyanosis.
- b-Evolution :
- It can be fulgurating with
complications such as pulmonary oedema and fibrosis.
- c-Prognosis :
- Death :
- Fatalities were reported.
- Recovery :
- Recovery occurs in 85 to 90
% of the cases. Convalescence can vary from 4 to 6
- Chronicity :
- The acute form can also
progress to the chronic form.
- B-Skin Contact
- The incrustation of small
crystals or chips of beryllium oxide under the skin
can cause the formation of painless ulcers or
subcutaneous granulomas after a few
- C-Ocular Contact :
- The damage can result from
irritation by particles or by the mechanical action of
dusts or of the particles. Exposure can result from
the direct contact with airborne particles (particles,
dusts, or powders), or following ocular contact with
the hands or soiled clothing.
- III-Chronic Effects :
- Berylliosis :
- A-Introduction :
- Berylliosis develops in 2 to
15 % of workers exposed according to the kind of work
carried out. The appearance and the progression of the
disease are partly due to individual genetic
susceptibilities which act in connection with the
- B-Exposure :
- Prolonged exposure, even to
very weak beryllium concentrations or to its compounds
can cause berylliosis. The low temperature
(500°C) calcined beryllium oxide would be
more sensitizing that the high temperature (1
000°C) calcined beryllium oxide because of
its greater solubility.
- The first action is
inflammation which creates a ground favourable to the
development of a cellular mediated immunological
response. Beryllium acts in combination with peptides
as a hapten which activates the effector cells to
produce cytokins. These last ones stimulate the
inflammatory and immunizing reaction of various
pulmonary cells while acting on the development of the
granulomatous inflammation associated with chronic
- D-Latency :
- It is an insidious disease
which can appear a few months only after the beginning
of the exposure or several years after the end of an
exposure having lasted only a few months. Usually the
disease appears within a delay varying from a few
months to 5 years, seldom up to 20 or 30
- E-Stages of Chronic
- 1-Sensitizing to
- Demonstrated by two BeLPT
- A certain evidence of
pulmonary effects, but without symptom,
- 3-Chronic Berylliosis
- Evidence of pulmonary
effects with symptoms.
- At the beginning :
- -exertional dyspnea,
- -dry and irritating cough,
more severe in the morning or upon exertion,
accompanied by chest pain and a feeling of tiredness.
- In the more advanced cases :
- -fever or night sweats,
- -anorexia accompanied by a
progressive loss of weight,
- -articular pains.
- One can also observe :
- -digital hippocratism,
- -enlargement of the liver
and the spleen,
- -renal effects.
- The pulmonary effect is
characterized by the formation of non-caseous
granulomas accompanied by alveolitis. When the effect
progresses, diffuse interstitial fibrosis
- G-Complications :
- Complications can occur such
as spontaneous pneumothorax and cardiopulmonary
- H-Exacerbation :
- The disease can be
exacerbated by factors such as a re-exposure,
infection, surgical operation, pregnancy,
- I-Evolution :
- The evolution of the disease
can occur in a gradual way, but can also be very
- Complete cure remains
exceptional. A minority of people remains asymptomatic
for long periods of time, while the majority presents
symptoms, while carrying out an almost normal life.
- The evolution of the disease
can end in cardiorespiratory insufficiency (cor
pulmonale) causing death in the most advanced
- J-Conditions Aggravated
by Exposure :
- People with deteriorations
of the pulmonary function, airway diseases, or
conditions such as asthma, emphysema, chronic
bronchitis, etc can incur more deterioration if dust
or vapors are inhaled.
- If former diseases or damage
to the neurological, circulatory, hematologic, or
urinary systems have already occurred, suitable
sreening examinations should be carried out in
individuals who can be exposed to hazards when
handling and using this material
- K-Medical Surveillance
- 1-Biological Monitoring
of the Exposure :
- A- Beryllium lymphocyte
proliferation (BeLPT) :
- -As a monitoring blood test,
it is more sensitive than clinical evaluation and has
a great predictive value in spite of its limitations.
- -When it is performed on
cells coming from bronchoalveolar lavage, the
predictive value is nearly 100 % of the cases, but
this test is less frequent because the sampling
requires a more invasive procedure.
- -A negative test does not
exclude the possibility of sensitization or
berylliosis, particularly in smokers.
- -The BeLPT test can help to
make the distinction between berylliosis and other
pulmonary diseases, particularly sarcoidosis.
- -The use of BeLPT as a test
for berylliosis monitoring has identified a population
of workers sensitized without apparent symptom of the
disease. These sensitized workers had pulmonary
function tests, a tolerance to exercise, pulmonary
X-rays and biopsies that were normal.
- In this type of situation,
these cases must remain under medical supervision and
be re-examined at regular intervals to detect the
first signs of the disease. It is estimated that
annually, approximately 10 % of the sensitized
individuals, will develop the disease.
- B-Periodicity :
- Certain researchers mention
that BeLPT monitoring should be conducted periodically
among workers exposed to beryllium, every 2 to 5
years, according to the level of exposure.
- C-Follow-up :
- A medical follow-up must be
performed in sensitized workers every 1 to 2 years and
immediately in workers with subclinical impairment, or
sensitized with symptoms or unexplained pulmonary
- 2-Other Suggested Test
- Pulmonary radiography can
identify a certain number of cases that the (BeLPT)
missed, the blood test detecting about from 80% to 90%
of the cases.
- L-Treatment :
- There is no treatment to
cure berylliosis. However, certain drugs are effective
to reduce the effects and to slow down the progression
of the disease. The use of these drugs, usually
corticosteroids, must be permanent.
- For the sensitized or
asymptomatic workers, the use of drugs is not
necessary, but they must be the subjects of a medical
follow-up in order to evaluate the progression of the
- IV-Skin Sensitization
- This product is a skin
sensitizer. Several cases of dermatitis of the
allergic type (eczema) were reported in workers
exposed to beryllium and its compounds. These cases
were confirmed by skin patch tests with several
beryllium salts (sulphate, fluoride, chloride and
- A-Effects on development
- It crosses the human
- B-Effects on reproduction
- The available data do not
make it possible to make an adequate evaluation of the
effects on reproduction.
- C-Data on breast milk
- It is found in the breast
milk of animals..
- Human carcinogen confirmed
by I.A.R.C., A.C.G.I.H., N.T.P.
- VII-Mutagenic Effects
- The available data do not
make it possible to make an adequate evaluation of
mutagenic effects. The tests of DNA effects and of
cellular transformation proved to be positive for low
temperature calcined beryllium oxide whereas doubtful
results were obtained in the same tests for high
temperature calcined beryllium oxide.
- First aid :
- I-Inhalation :
- In the event of inhalation
of fume or dust, bring the person into a ventilated
place and place him in a half-sitting position. If he
does not breathe, give him artificial respiration. In
the event of respiratory difficulties, give him
- Transfer immediately to the
nearest medical emergency department.
- II-Ocular Contact
- Rinse eyes with plenty of
water during 5 minutes or until the product is
- If irritation persists, see
- III-Skin Contact
- Quickly withdraw
contaminated clothing. Wash the skin with water and
soap. Completely clean cuts or wounds. Any beryllium
oxide particle lodged accidentally under the skin must
- IV-Ingestion :
- Rinse mouth with water.
- See a doctor.
Exposure Limit :
- I-Valeur d'Exposition
Moyenne Pondérée (VEMP)
- 0,00015 mg/m³
(expressed as Be (Beryllium).
- C2 : A suspected human
- EM : Exposure to this
chemical must be reduced to the minimum.
- RP : Substance whose
recirculation is prohibited
Medicine,Carl Zenz, last edition.
- 2-Clinical Environmental
Health and Toxic Exposures, Sullivan & Krieger;
- 3-Sax's Dangerous
Properties of Industrial Materials, Lewis C., last
Industrielle et Intoxications Professionnelles,
Lauwerys R. last edition.
- 5-Chemical Hazards of the
Workplace, Proctor & Hughes, 4th
- 7-ESPI Metals MSDS, 1996
(Prepared par S. Dierks)
of " Substitutions for raw ceramic
et documenté par le propriétaire du site
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