Beryllium (Be) can be toxic to humans and animals. Be is a biological antagonist to magnesium. It has a long-term effect of inducing abnormal activity in T lymphocytes, causing immune dysregulation and hypersensitivity reactions. In animals, Be has been shown to cause rickets and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin.
Be is poorly absorbed in the intestinal tract, but is readily absorbed by the skin and lungs. Inhalation is the primary route of exposure, and chronic uptake results in dyspnea (difficulty breathing), cough, and pulmonary distress.
Possible sources of Be are:
- electronic components
- metal alloys used in aircraft and aerospace applications
- aluminum-copper-beryllium alloys
- bearing sleeves
- optical lens coatings
- some phosphors in florescent lights