Fact Sheet: Beryllium


Brief Overview:
Contaminant: Beryllium
Category: Inorganic
Treatment: Activated Alumina, Coagulation/filtration, RO

Beryllium is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements, and in some precious stones such as emeralds and aquamarine. The greatest use of beryllium is in making metal alloys for nuclear reactors and the aerospace industry.

Production of beryllium metal was 490,000 lbs. in 1986. It is released principally in the smoke stacks and ash wastes of power plants which burn coal. It is also found in discharges from other industrial and municipal operations. Rocket exhaust products also consist of various beryllium compounds.

From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory beryllium releases to land and water totaled over 340,000 lbs. These releases were primarily from copper rolling and drawing industries which use it as a hardener in alloys. The largest releases occurred in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

What happens to Beryllium when it is released to the environment? Very little is known about what happens to beryllium compounds when released to the environment. It appears unlikely to leach to ground water when released to land. Erosion or runoff of beryllium compounds into surface waters is not likely to be in a soluble form.

Short-term: EPA has found Beryllium to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: inflammation of the lungs when inhaled; less toxic in drinking water.

Long-term: Beryllium has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to bones and lungs; cancer.

Activated Alumina, Coagulation/filtration, Ion Exchange, Lime Softening, Reverse Osmosis