A Naturally Occurring Element

Manufacturing operations in the EU that involve the processing of beryllium metal or beryllium containing alloys are very few in number and exposure is confined to workers. Releases and health risks can be controlled through conventional risk management measures commonly used in industry.

The major sources of beryllium releases are not the result of manufacturing operations, but are from naturally occurring beryllium. Coal fired power plants present the largest source of releases of beryllium to the environment.

The general population is not exposed to beryllium metal due to its presence in manufactured products, but because beryllium is a naturally occurring element.

Beryllium

Beryllium occurs naturally in soil and gemstones such as aquamarine and emerald

  • Found at 0.5 to 2ppm or higher in soils, rocks and coal throughout the world
  • Commonly found in coal, wood, vegetables, foodstuffs and gemstones such as aquamarine and emerald
  • Found at ppb levels in most plants and vegetables
  • Naturally occurring in ground water and surface water
  • In air, beryllium compounds are present mostly as fine dust particles

Beryllium has been measured (fresh weight) in:

Beryllium can be found in potatoes and kidney beans

  • rice at 72 µg/kg
  • lettuce at 16 µg/kg
  • kidney beans at 2200 µg/kg
  • peas at 109 µg/kg
  • potatoes at 0.59 µg/kg

Beryllium in Fuels

"Beryllium intake through air and dust can be increased 2-3 orders of magnitude in the vicinity of a point source, such as a coat-fired power plant." (WHO 2009)

  • Average Beryllium content in coal: 1.90 ppm
  • Average Beryllium content of coal ash: 28.35 ppm
  • Average Beryllium content of fuel oil: 0.1 – 0.2 ppm

Beryllium in Soils and Waters

  • Beryllium enters waterways from the wearing away of rocks and soil
  • Beryllium in soil does not dissolve in water, but remains bound to the soil
  • Once in the soil, the beryllium is not very likely to move deeper into the ground and enter groundwater
  • Fish do not accumulate beryllium from water into their bodies to any great extent

Beryllium in Household & Construction Products

Beryllium is present in many construction products

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Fertilizers
  • Detergents
  • Charcoal
  • Kitty litter
  • Concrete block
  • Concrete floors
  • Metals
  • Roofing materials

Beryllium in Industrial Products

Beryllium occurs in industrial products such as metal and concrete

  • Cement
  • Oil & oil dry
  • Metals
  • Sandpaper
  • Abrasive blasting agents (used to replace sand)
  • Grinding wheels
  • Welding rods