Environmental Health Criteria No 106
World Health Organization
ISBN-13    9789241571067 ISBN-10    9241571063
Order Number    11600106   
Price    CHF    37.00 / US$    44.40 Developing countries:    CHF    37.00
English     1990        23   pages
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Evaluates risks to human health and the environment posed by the use of beryllium, a brittle metal having major applications in the electronics and micro-electronics industries, in nuclear energy, and in the production of military devices, including satellites, missiles, atomic bombs, and other weapons. Beryllium has also proved its superiority as a structural material for aircraft and spacecraft.
An evaluation of sources of exposure cites the combustion of fossil fuels as the most important source of atmospheric beryllium, with coal singled out as the main pollutant source. For humans, the report notes that toxicologically relevant exposure is almost exclusively confined to the workplace. Only two applications pose a risk to the general population: mantle-type camping lanterns and the use of beryllium in dental prostheses and cements.
The most extensive section evaluates data from the large number of toxicological studies documenting the development of acute chemical pneumonitis and a highly species-specific induction of pulmonary cancer. An evaluation of effects on humans, which concentrates on occupational exposures, summarizes findings on the occurrence of both acute and chronic beryllium disease. The review also yields clinically useful information on exposure levels, characteristic signs and symptoms, and the most reliable diagnostic tests. In view of the controversy concerning the carcinogenicity of beryllium, particularly careful attention was given to several studies repor-ting a significantly elevated risk of lung cancer in exposed workers. Evidence was judged sufficient to confirm the role of beryllium in the development of human lung cancer. The report further concludes that the potential of beryllium to provoke contact allergic reactions, supported by several reports of allergic contact stomatitis in dental patients, calls for a reconsideration of the use of this metal in dentistry.