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#150499 - 05/27/05 09:58 PM Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
Trumpy Offline


Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
I was reading in a local trade magazine here last night, an article, that really rather shocked me, for a number of reasons.
I'd never heard of this sort of thing before and also because it's been known about in the US for some time.
This is a Health and Safety nightmare as far as we are concerned, especially when you consider that beryllium was classed as a Category 1 carcinogen back in 2001 in the US and had been known about some time before that.
It effects almost everyone in the Electrical/Electronics industries, especially those that work on Commercial and Industrial installations.
Beryllium, is used in a wide range of of gear, including auto spark-plugs, relays and other switchgear.
Beryllium alloys are also used in electrical, instrumentation and computer applications because it is non-magnetic and has high conductivity, it is also non-sparking and is harder than steel, beryllium is also used in tools specified for use in flammable hazardous atmospheres.
Just one contact with with it, is enough to put you at high risk of berylliosis.
Berylliosis, is a treatable, but incurable lung disease which causes inflammation and scarring of the lungs, resulting in dry coughing, breathlessness, weight loss and chest pain.
OSH NZ obviously knew (or should have known) about this when this material was classed as dangerous, 4 years ago.
Apparently there isn't even a test laboratory here that can detect beryllium posioning, with the cause of the above symptoms often being diagnosed as other non-occupational causes, like smoking and so forth.
So therefore, we have no records of it's effects on workers over here either.
This is slack to say the least, if we muck-up over here we get fined huge amounts, for "Health and Safety" breaches.
Just another thing in the list of hazards that can harm us, I guess.
What are your thoughts on Beryllium?.


[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 05-28-2005).]
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

Arc Flash PPE Clothing, LOTO & Insulated Tools
#150500 - 05/28/05 09:18 AM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
Alan Belson Offline

Registered: 03/23/05
Posts: 1801
Loc: Mayenne N. France
We used the pure metal in in the early seventies, ( it's half the weight of
Alumin(i)um,) and has good properties for certain "things". Machinings/dust are a lethal poison, and the metal is cut in sealed facilities. As lumps?-no risk unless sanded/ground, and you are very unlikely to encounter the metal itself. Incorporated in small amounts into alloys like berylium-copper springs or steels for spark-plugs, again there is little risk, because inter-metallic compounds are formed- ie BeCu, BeFe. Other compounds such as BeCl2 will be more reactive, but in fact any dust particles of a certain size will permanently damage the lungs- like coal, wood, rock dusts, etc. You can't cough these up, so the damage is permanent. How are the victims encountering the berylium Trumpy- in mining, refining?
Wood work but can't!

#150501 - 05/28/05 10:35 AM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
rad74ss Offline

Registered: 04/19/04
Posts: 154
Loc: Pryor, OK USA
The gyro's on the Submarine I was on had electrically suspended Beryllium balls. I have heard of health problems with the people who machined them but not with the people who installed them (clean rooms) or with the operators (sealed container).

In the case that the ball 'dusted' itself by loosing suspension and crashing into the cup at extremely high speed, there being miniscule distance between ball and cup, would require that the whole assembly be removed and sent back to a shore facility. The facility would then have to take severe safety precautions to make sure that the dust was not allowed to escape into the atmosphere.

If I remember my schooling correctly it was to be treated similar to asbestos. As long as there was no dust you were relatively safe.

In alloy form it would be more stable (depending on the alloy). However, we always considered anything with beryllium that was powdered or otherwise particalized was to be treated the same as pure for safeties sake.


#150502 - 05/28/05 12:56 PM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
pauluk Offline

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
Beryllium oxide can be found in encapsulated semiconductor devices (e.g. transistors). There have been warnings around for years in both professional and home-hobbiest circles about the dangers of breaking open old devices.

#150503 - 05/28/05 01:28 PM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
NJwirenut Offline

Registered: 09/15/01
Posts: 816
Loc: Bergen County, NJ
In addition to power semiconductors, Beryllium Oxide (BeO) is also found in some high power electron tubes (mostly microwave stuff), and some heatsink assemblies. Looks like an innocuous white ceramic, but it is deadly if pulverized and inhaled.

#150504 - 05/29/05 03:34 PM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
Alan Belson Offline

Registered: 03/23/05
Posts: 1801
Loc: Mayenne N. France
Apart from the obvious but rare toxicity of beryllium, there are risks attached to ingestion of a lot of more common metals and their compounds.
Alumin(i)um: Jury still out on the Altzheimers link.
Cadmium: Used on lots of old plated electrical stuff, now known to be very hazardous.
Lead: Insidious, deadly poison and still plentiful in old domestic paintwork.
Mercury: Still around in old garden pest control products lying in outbuildings, and used in many old electrical devices.
Copper, nickel and other heavy metals: Again, long term health risks, and found practically everywhere. I once worked on a site where old small-arms ammo had been burned after WWII in crude fires. An area of perhaps 4 acres was up to 2 ft deep in spent cases, ball, coke shards, wooden ammo-box hinges and dirt. Uneconomic to clear because of the few live rounds lying buried in wait, it was as dead a doorpost except for some wierd copper/lead tolerant plants.
And an electrician, by nature of his/her work, is being exposed daily to metals more than most other building trades.
Wood work but can't!

#150505 - 05/31/05 10:40 AM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
DougW Offline

Registered: 06/08/03
Posts: 1083
Loc: North Chicago, IL
Do a Google search under Fansteel and Beryllium.

North Chicago - my home town!

#150506 - 05/31/05 06:14 PM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
Scott35 Offline

Broom Pusher and

Registered: 10/19/00
Posts: 2724
Loc: Anaheim, CA. USA
Not sure if still used, but Beryllium was used in Fluorescent Tanning Lamps (FO72-T12 VHO types).

The Lamps had "Beryllium" labeled with the Manufacturers' information + Lamp / ANSI Identification.

This was "Back-In-The-Day" (1990, 1991), when I did some Tanning Salon Tenant Improvements.

Glad none of the Lamps broke on me! (AKA: "Ohhhh,,,Wooaaaahhh!!...CRASHHHHH... assorted swear words follow crash).
Had no idea of the risk back then!!!

Scott " 35 " Thompson
Just Say NO To Green Eggs And Ham!

#150507 - 05/31/05 11:10 PM Re: Beryllium+Electricians=Trouble!
Trumpy Offline


Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8540
Loc: SI,New Zealand
The thing that concerns me the most, is the practice over here, with the larger Motor Control racks and units was to power them down here as part of a Planned Maintenance program.
This would include opening the heavier contactors and "dressing" the contacts with a fine file to ensure better contact.
These contactors were made to be dismantled.
This practice is still going on here.
We just had no idea that the contacts had Beryllium in them until now.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin


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