Beryllium (chemical symbol Be) is a silver-gray coloured metallic element that occurs naturally at low concentrations in the earth's crust. Two kinds of beryllium minerals are mined commercially, bertrandite and beryl (of which emeralds are a type).
Beryllium and its compounds have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 1 agents, carcinogenic to humans, with a well-established link to lung cancer.[3,5] The 2012 review of Class 1 carcinogens by IARC reaffirmed this classification.
Beryllium is highly sensitizing, even at very low levels of exposure. Exposure can cause acute beryllium disease (ABD) and chronic beryllium disease (CBD). ABD is a condition that resembles pneumonia. It can occur after short-term, high levels of exposure to beryllium (>1 mg/m3). CBD is an inflammatory lung disease that causes fibrosis. The relationship between sensitization to beryllium and subsequent disease development is not fully understood. In addition, there is no known lower limit for beryllium sensitization and development of CBD. Dermal contact can also lead to an allergic response.
stel = short term exposure limit (15 min. maximum)
ACGIH = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists
TLV = threshold limit value
Canadian Environmental Guidelines
Beryllium and its compounds were not included in any other Canadian environmental guidelines reviewed.[8,9,10]
DSL – high priority substance with lowest potential for exposure
DSL = domestic substance list
Beryllium was not included in other Canadian government chemical listings reviewed.[12,13]
Beryllium metal is used in aircraft/satellite structures, x-ray transmission windows, spacecraft instrumentation, nuclear weapons, mirrors, and computer and audio components. In alloys, beryllium increases strength as well as thermal and electrical conductivity, making it useful in consumer goods like automobiles, computers, sports equipment (especially bike frames), and dental bridges. Beryllium oxide is typically used for specialty ceramics in electrical and high-technology applications.
Canadian Production and Trade
Production and Trade
Export: Mainly to China
6 t of 'beryllium and articles thereof'
Import: Mainly from US
17 t of 'beryllium and articles thereof'
Inhalation is the most important route of occupational exposure. CAREX Canada estimates that approximately 3,900 Canadians are exposed to beryllium in their workplace. The largest industrial groups exposed are building equipment contractors and manufacturers of medical equipment and supplies. Other important industries where beryllium exposure occurs are residential building construction and automotive parts manufacturing and repair. The primary occupational groups exposed are construction trades helpers, welders, electricians, and dental technologists.
Additional groups that may also be exposed include workers involved in beryllium alloy production, metals and related products manufacturing, nuclear reactor operation, and electric and electronic equipment production.
Although only a small number of workers are exposed to high levels worldwide, the number of workers exposed to low levels is increasing. This increase is due to increased use of beryllium in the aircraft, aerospace, nuclear, and electronics industries.
Sources of environmental exposure to beryllium include burning coal  and fuel oil. Residual beryllium left on work garments may also lead to exposures in the home.
Beryllium is found at low levels geologically in Canada, mostly in northern British Columbia and southern Yukon, as well as the Northwest Territories.
Beryllium was not included in the National Pollutant Release Inventory or the Household Products Database.[16,17]
Our team has performed a detailed scan of exposure control resources and assembled a compilation of key publications and resources. These are organized by type of exposure (environmental or occupational) and by specificity (general or carcinogen-specific). Please visit our Exposures Reduction Resources page to view.
We also recommend exploring the Prevention Policies Directory, a freely-accessible online tool offering information on policies related to cancer and chronic disease prevention. Providing summaries of the policies and direct access to the policy documents, the Directory allows users to search by carcinogen, risk factor, jurisdiction, geographical location, and document type. Click here to learn more about policies specific to beryllium in the Directory. For questions about this resource, please contact a member of the Prevention Team at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer at email@example.com.
Henneberger PK, Goe SK, Miller WE, Doney B, Groce DW. "Industries in the United States with airborne beryllium exposure and estimates of the number of current workers potentially exposed." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health 2004;1(10):648-659.