BERYLLIUM: MIRACLE METAL.....TOXIC LEGACY
Beryllium Exposure Links to Chronic Beryllium Disease and Cancers...Were World Trade Center Responders Exposed?
BERYLLIUM: MIRACLE METAL
In 1961 Astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. became the first American to journey into space and return safely to earth with a shield of Beryllium protecting his Mercury capsule. Three years later in 1964, A..J. Foyt won the Indianapolis 500 with a set of "heat loving-weight saving Beryllium brakes" made at Brush Wellman Inc., the nations largest Beryllium producer.
(Brush Wellman Website)
BERYLLIUM: TOXIC TIME-BOMB?
As much as Beryllium has been lauded for its amazing properties, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN); Beryllium is the most toxic of all industrial metals. The multibillion dollar global industry is currently regulated by an alphabet soup of acronyms of Federal, State and International Agencies. Beryllium in a solid form is safe and can be handled safely if proper procedures and safety precautions are taken. When working with it while machining, welding or burning, if not handled properly, it can be deadly toxic- causing such diseases as Chronic Beryllium Disease, a fatal lung disease which can be caused by inhaling vapor dust or particulates of Beryllium. This disease may take several decades to exhibit, and there is no cure.
Other diseases caused by exposure to Beryllium when ingested in a vapor, dust or particle form:
Inhaled Beryllium is partially deposited in the lungs, blood system and finally the bones, thus affecting all organ systems. Since the human body does not quickly eliminate beryllium, trace amounts are detectable as long as 10 years after exposure. Prolonged repeated skin exposure can cause rashes, dermatitis. Eye contact can cause conjunctivitis and eye ulcers. If introduced through skin by cuts or punctures, non-healing ulcers may develop with target organs being; lungs, mucous membranes eyes and skin.
(Genium Publishing Corporation-Beryllium Metal/Powder)
According to CERN, their safety instruction manual printed in 1985 for handling of Beryllium also tells a clear story:
Beryllium is the most toxic of all the industrial metals. Whenever possible its use should be avoided. However beryllium and its compounds have certain unique properties, which in spite of its high cost are finding growing and diversified applications in special critical end uses.
Beryllium and its compounds are highly toxic. They are cumulative poisons which can enter the body by inhalation of dust, fume and vapour by ingestion. Acute effects include: inflamation of the throat and chest, dermatitis, lung damage and conjunctivitis. Chronic effects include breathlessness on exertion, cough, chest pains, loss of apetitie, tiredness, loss of weight and skin changes. Early diagnosis is of prime importance in the subsequent success of treatment with modern drugs. All persons suspected to have been in contact with Beryllium dust, fume or vapour must all have a medical examination.
BERYLLIUM USE EXPANDS IN THE UNITED STATES
Because it is so light, strong and rigid at both high and low temperatures, Beryllium was the choice for the Space Industry. It was used in the Mars Rover and the Cassini Orbiters. The space shuttle uses Beryllium in its' window frames and doors. It is part of the Hubble and Spitzer Telescopes and also the new James Webb Telescope scheduled to be hoisted into space in the year 2013.
In the medical field Beryllium is in pacemakers, X-ray machines, CAT Scans, MRI Machinery and Laser Scalpels.
Beryllium is contained in luggage bar code scanners in airports, photocopiers and photo separators.
It is in sprinkler heads and fire extinguishers. In cars, Beryllium alloys are used in power steering in ignition switches and air bag sensors. (Brush Wellman Inc. website)
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry:
Lung damage has been observed in people exposed to high levels of beryllium in the air. About 1-15% of all people occupationally-exposed to beryllium in air become sensitive to beryllium and may develop chronic beryllium disease (CBD) an irreversible and sometimes fatal scarring of the lungs. CBD may be completely asymptomatic or begin with coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and/or fatigue. Beryllium has been found in at least 535 of the 1,613 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Prior to 1950 exposure to Beryllium in working environments was usually very high and precautions were few- if any. When fighting fires; pressure demand self-contained breathing apparatus must be worn by firefighters or any other persons exposed to particulates of Beryllium released during or after a fire.
Standards for dealing with fires that contain Beryllium are strictly regulated by CERN:
Beryllium is the most toxic of all the industrial metals. Whenever possible its use should be avoided. However, Beryllium and its compounds have certain unique properties which, in spite of high cost, are finding growing and diversified applications in special and critical end uses.
===================== Fire Fighting Measures =====================
Flash Point:NONE REPORTED
Autoignition Temp:=648.9C, 1200.F
Extinguishing Media:NEVER USE WATER OR CARBON DIOXIDE. INSTEAD, SMOTHER
THE FIRE WITH AN APPROVED DRY-POWDER EXTINGUISHER. SAND, GRAPHITE
POWDER, AND SODIUM CHLORIDE ARE ALSO RECOMMENDED.
Fire Fighting Procedures:WEAR NIOSH APPROVED SCBA AND FULL PROTECTIVE
EQUIPMENT . AFTER EXPOSURE TO A BERYLLIUM FIRE, THEY SHOULD CLEAN
EQUIPMENT AND BATHE CAREFULLY.
Unusual Fire/Explosion Hazard:BERYLLIUM CAN BE A MODERATE FIRE HAZARD
IF EXPOSED TO FLAME. THE HAZARDS INCREASE AS PARTICULATE SIZE
DECREASES. A BERYLLIUM DUST CLOUD CAN BE EXPLOSIVE (AREAS WHERE
DUSTING MAY OCCUR REQUIRE CLASS 2 GROUP E ELECTRICAL SERVICES).
(29 CFR 1910.309) THIS MATERIAL'S COMBUSTION PRODUCTS ARE HIGHLY
================== Accidental Release Measures ==================
Beryllium must never be machined nor even hand worked at CERN. It must be bought in the form in which it will be used and if modifications have to be made, they must be done at a competent firm outside (TIS/GC can help to find such firms).
This raises the question of whether our first responders on 9-11 should all have used SCBA apparatus and worn protective gear because of potentially deadly amounts of Beryllium burning in the pit?
According to a report of the Health Impacts of 9-11 submitted to Mayor Bloomberg by the World Trade Center Health Panel:
On that day, hundreds of thousands of people were exposed or
potentially exposed to dust, particulates, and other environmental contaminants, and endured or
witnessed deeply traumatic events. Fires burned and smoldered at the site for months. Many
who lived, worked or attended school in the area found their lives upended and their livelihoods
damaged or completely destroyed; thousands were temporarily displaced.
There is no mention of Beryllium anywhere in the report.
Due to the fact that Beryllium is increasingly being used in cell phones and other modern technological devices this raises the question: are automobile, office building, airline or other fires currently being approached with the proper breathing apparatus and full coverage garments suggested when dealing with fires that contain beryllium?
Were the first responders of 9-11 checked for Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), which requires an expensive and specific test (BeLPT) and can take decades to present its symptoms?
Another serious question pertains to the fact that the EPA in New York allows the burning of Beryllium in the incinerators on Long Island. This despite the fact that any and all sources with knowledge of Beryllium, including the Brush Wellman website strictly warn against being exposed to any level of Beryllium in a vapor, dust or particle form.
According to the National Jewish Health website "Studies have shown that breathing even seemingly trivial amounts of beryllium can cause chronic beryllium sensitization disease and chronic beryllium disease... Although it primarily attacks the lungs, it can also cause a rash, poor wound healing, or wart-like skin bumps, if it enters the body through an opening in the skin, such as a sliver or cut."
Despite these warnings against any exposure to Beryllium in vapor, dust or particle form, the permit for the Covanta Incinerator in Huntington allows for emissions of .0002 lbs/hour of Beryllium. (This limit represents BACT.) The permit is issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation in compliance with standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The permit also allows for the burning of a percentage of lead and mercury. The percentage of volume of lead allowed to be burned is roughly 1400 times as much as that of beryllium, evidencing how toxic beryllium actually is.
Freelance Investigations contacted Brush Wellman and asked if any amount of Beryllium being burned in incinerators that are located near neighborhoods would be safe. The following was the reply:
"The U.S. EPA restricts the amount of human-created beryllium that may be released into the air, which includes such sources as incinerators, industry and electric utilities. Electric utilities generate more than three times the volume of human-created beryllium released to air than the other sources combined. To ignore this and focus singularly on incinerators would, in our opinion, provide a very incomplete and potentially misleading representation of the facts. Moreover, I believe you should contact the US EPA for their views on the efficacy of their standards. That is our response to your inquiry. Thank you. Patrick Carpenter" (Brush Wellman) info in parenthesis added.
The Northport Power Station on Waterside Avenue and Eatons Neck Road, owned by National Grid also has permission to burn measured amounts of beryllium and radionuclides. National Grid bought 53 old power plants from Key Span. Covanta operates several incinerators in neighborhoods on Long Island. Brookhaven Laboratory also has its own incinerator and it was burning radioactive waste and burying the fly ash in the ground and landfills, according to BNL reports.
According to the NPS AIR PERMITS for the Northport Power Station:
This facility consists of four (4) 385 MWe nominal turbine/generator boiler sets operating on natural gas, #1, #2, or #6 fuel oils. In addition, a 15 MWe nominal black start combustion turbine is maintained on site to meet load demand and emergency power requirements. In addition to #1, #2 and #6 fuel oil and natural gas, these boilers burn waste oil generated on site and at other company facilities for energy recovery, and incinerate citrosolv, a boiler cleaning solution, following boiler chemical cleaning. There are five (5) main tanks used for storing #6 fuel oil, ranging from 13,524,000 to 27,035,000 gallons. In addition, there are numerous smaller tanks used for storing distillate, lubrication and/or dielectric oils
NESHAP National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (40 CFR 61) - contaminant and source specific emission standards established prior to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) which were developed for 9 air contaminants (inorganic arsenic, radon, benzene, vinyl chloride, asbestos, mercury, beryllium, radionuclides, and volatile HAP’s)
Secret projects were carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and other sites on Long Island, where uranium was enriched for use in our nuclear arsenal and Beryllium was used in a multitude of military and other applications. This made dosage levels of people exposed to these carcinogenic elements impossible to calculate. It can sometimes take decades for the effects of Beryllium exposure to exhibit, and any person who was or is at risk because of exposure can now get financial and medical help through the Department of Labor, NIOSH and the EEOICPA.
In a recent exclusive article, Freelance Investigations revealed there would now be money and medical compensation available for anyone working at Brookhaven National Laboratories or the old Sylvania Property in Hicksville, as well as their contractors and subcontractors during certain years. These people are presumed to have been exposed to Beryllium and radiation in levels that would be harmful to their health. One of the larger local contractors connected to BNL, where Beryllium was used extensively was Grumman Aerospace in Bethpage, Long Island. Anyone who worked there may be entitled to a free medical screening. Anyone who had a relative who worked there and is deceased from one of twenty three cancers or other covered medical conditions may also be entitled to monetary compensation. (See Freelance Investigations Article archives January 2010).
The following important information is provided to help people understand what Beryllium is what it does and the nature of its' effect on people's health, if they are exposed.
Brush Wellman Inc. is the nation's largest manufacturer and distributor of Beryllium, Beryllium Alloys and Beryllium Ceramics. The following information was gleaned from documents contained on their website.
Beryllium as a solid is not toxic. Beryllium dust or particulates created during machining or other processes can be highly carcinogenic and toxic if breathed into the lungs or if it settles on skin or in the eyes.
Beryllium is the fourth element on the periodic table of elements. Its' symbol is Be and it has an atomic weight of 9.01.
Beryllium is the second lightest metal we know, (the lightest is Lithium). Beryllium though light, is one tough metal and is used in the nuclear power industry for blast shields and reflectors and as a neutron moderator.
Beryllium has a very high melting point of 1,278 degrees C and has a very low density, which makes it ideal for use in military applications such as nuclear warheads, jet fighters (in F-16's and F-22's Be is used in over 340 parts), helicopters, spacecraft and satellites. It is used in the landing gear and brakes in military aircraft where only 100% Beryllium is used. In commercial aircraft they are most likely to use Beryllium alloys. Beryllium is used in the "gimbals" in which the Navy gyroscopes are mounted as it has high levels of elasticity.
Beryllium is used in the oil and gas industry for drill bits, because it is non-sparking and also for military optics, infrared and surveillance systems and sensors in military satellites.
Beryllium Oxide Ceramics (BeO) another division of Brush Wellman produces this ceramic material which is perfect for producing circuits, such as those carrying high currents or very dense circuitry, because it can withstand extremes in temperature and rapidly dissipates heat. Ideal for the wireless, telecommunications, power electronics, energy, medical and aerospace industries, beryllium ceramics allows for improved electrical performance particularly at high frequencies.
Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) is a lung disease for which there is no cure and which over
time will become fatal. The tissues of the lungs become inflamed and over time, fibrosis (scarring)
may restrict the oxygen flow between the lungs and the bloodstream.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists beryllium as a known carcinogenic.
Although today the major players in the industry like Brush Wellman follow all the safety rules when handling Beryllium, Beryllium alloys and ceramics, years ago, things were different and regulations were non-existent.
When handled properly, there is little or no problem working with beryllium. According to their website, Brush Wellman always takes great pains to ensure that regulations regarding its' handling and all International, Federal and State regulations are strictly followed.
Following is the label which accompanies Beryllium during shipment.
INHALING DUST OR FUMES MAY CAUSE CHRONIC BERYLLIUM DISEASE, A SERIOUS CHRONIC
LUNG DISEASE, IN SOME INDIVIDUALS. CANCER HAZARD. OVER TIME, LUNG DISEASE AND
CANCER CAN BE FATAL. TARGET ORGAN IS PRIMARILY THE LUNG.
READ THE MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET (MSDS) ON FILE WITH YOUR EMPLOYER BEFORE
WORKING WITH THIS MATERIAL.
Overexposure to beryllium by inhalation may cause chronic beryllium disease, a serious chronic lung disease.
• If processing or recycling produces airborne dust, fumes, or mists, use exhaust ventilation or other controls
designed to prevent exposure to workers. Examples of such activities include melting, machining, welding,
grinding, abrasive sawing, sanding and polishing. Any activity which abrades the surface of this material can
generate airborne dust.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set mandatory limits on occupational
• Beryllium metal, in solid form and as contained in finished products presents no special health risks.
• Sold for manufacturing purposes only. This product can be recycled; contact your sales representative.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide training in the proper use of this
Calls to the State EPA and the New York State DEC to ask the reason for them allowing incinerators to burn any amount of Beryllium- considering the toxic nature of Beryllium in vapor form- were not returned as of time of publication. Any comments they would like to add to this would always be welcome.
Posted by NYSCRIBE
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