According to NIOSH "workers exposed to particles, fumes, mists and solutions from beryllium-containing materials may develop beryllium sensitization or chronic beryllium disease, a potentially disabling or even fatal respiratory disease."
Breathing in fumes or dusts of beryllium compounds may injure the lungs. While most commonly associated with diseases of the lungs, beryllium may also affect such organs as the liver, kidneys, heart, nervous system, and the lymphatic system. Beryllium is also a known cancer causing substance.
Acute beryllium disease may develop after a short and heavy exposure and usually last for less than one year. The disease has symptoms similar to pneumonia or bronchitis. Exposure to beryllium can lead to sensitization - an allergic-type response.
Symptoms of chronic beryllium disease are breathing difficulties (shortness of breath), coughing, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. Signs include enlargement of the liver, spleen and right heart, and kidney stones.
Industrial uses of beryllium
Industrial uses include the manufacture of thermal coating, nuclear reactors, rocket heat shields, brakes, x-ray tubes, and dental plates. The occupations listed below may involve exposure to beryllium.
Industrial processes that use beryllium or products that contain the metal include:
Extraction of beryllium(smelting and refining).
Beryllium metallurgy (production of beryllium metal and compounds) and laboratory work involving beryllium.
Electronics, microcircuits, guidance and control systems, computer components.
Dental plates manufacturing.
Thermal castings.X-ray tube window manufacturing.
Guidance and navigation system manufacturing.
Rocket parts and heat shields.
How to prevent beryllium disease
Workplaces need to identify sources of beryllium. In addition to the health hazards described above, beryllium is also a flammable solid and a dust explosion hazard.
Elimination or substitution.
Engineering controls: Process modification.Process enclosure.Automation of the work procedures.Local exhaust ventilation systems.
Administrative controls:Good housekeeping.Protective clothing.Convenient washing facilities.Good sanitation practices.
Training and education.
Personal protective equipment (PPE).
Thanks & Credit to CCOHS & Paul Cochrane