Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in January 2000
Inhalation exposure to beryllium primarily occurs in the workplaces where it is mined, processed, or converted into alloys and chemicals, or from the burning of coal or fuel oil and in tobacco smoke. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to high levels of beryllium has been observed to cause inflammation of the lungs or acute pneumonitis (reddening and swelling of the lungs) in humans; after exposure ends, these symptoms may be reversible. Chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure of humans to beryllium has been reported to cause chronic beryllium disease (berylliosis), in which granulomatous lesions (noncancerous) develop in the lung. Human epidemiology studies are limited, but suggest a causal relationship between beryllium exposure and an increased risk of lung cancer. Inhalation exposure to beryllium has been demonstrated to cause lung cancer in rats and monkeys. EPA has classified beryllium as a Group B1, probable human carcinogen.
Please Note: The main sources of information for this fact sheet are EPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which contains information on oral chronic toxicity and the RfD and inhalation chronic toxicity and the RfC, and the carcinogenic effects of beryllium including the unit cancer risk for inhalation exposure, EPA's Toxicological Review of Beryllium and Compounds, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR's) Toxicological Profile for Beryllium.