What Are the U.S. Standards for Beryllium Exposure?

Course: WB 1095
CE Original Date: May 23, 2008
CE Renewal Date: May 23, 2011
CE Expiration Date: May 23, 2013
Download Printer-Friendly Version pdf icon[PDF – 463 KB]

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, you will be able to

Introduction

Table 1 shows standards and regulations for beryllium. The occupational exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) of air for an 8-hour work shift for beryllium has been used in the workplace since the late 1940s. However, recent research has shown that the 2.0 mg/m3 standard is not protective (For example, see the ACGIH standards). Ongoing and planned research is anticipated to support the development of one or more scientifically sound standards for the different chemical forms of beryllium (Paustenbach et al. 2001). The health data currently available support further reductions in exposure levels to help minimize the incidence of chronic beryllium disease (Wambach and Tuggle 2000). Additional international, national, and state regulations and guidelines regarding beryllium in air, water, and other media are summarized in Table 8-1 of the 2002 ATSDR Toxicological Profile on Beryllium (www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp.asp?id=1441&tid=33).

Workplace Standards
Air

The OSHA regulation for beryllium and its compounds is an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 2 micrograms (as beryllium) per cubic meter of air (2 µg/m3).

An employee should not be exposed to a concentration of beryllium and beryllium compounds exceeding 5 µg/m3.

The 30-minute maximum peak level is 25 µg/m3.

NIOSH recommends that beryllium be treated as a potential human carcinogen and advises a 10-hour TWA not to exceed 0.5 µg/m3.

Environmental Standards
Air

Beryllium has been designated a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. According to EPA regulations, beryllium emissions from stationary sources cannot exceed 10 g (0.022 lbs) over a 24-hour period.

Ambient air concentrations averaged over a 30-day period near stationary sources must not exceed 0.01 µg/m3.

Water

The EPA advisory for beryllium in water is less than 68 nanograms per liter (ng/L) for consumption of 2 L of ambient water per day.

Table 1. Standards and Regulations for Beryllium
Agency Focus Level Comments
American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienistsexternal icon Air: workplace 2 µg/m3
0.05 µg/m3
0.2 µg/m3
Advisory; TLV-TWA*
Notice of Intended Change, 2007; TLV-TWA*
Notice of Intended Change, 2007: STEL
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Air: workplace 0.5 µg/m3 Advisory; 10-hour TWA; REL**
Occupational Safety and Health Administrationexternal icon (OSHA) Air: workplace 2 µg/m3
5 µg/m3
25 µg/m3
Regulation; PEL as TWA
Regulation; Ceiling
Regulation; STEL
30-minute maximum peak
U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyexternal icon (EPA) Air emissions 10 g/24 hours Regulation

* TLV-TWA (threshold limit value-time-weighted average): time-weighted average concentration to which nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed for a normal workday and a 40-hour workweek.

PEL (permissible exposure limit): highest level of beryllium in air to which a worker may be exposed, averaged over an 8-hour workday.

** REL (recommended exposure limit): TWA indicates a time-weighted average concentration for up to a 10-hour workday during a 40-hour workweek.

STEL (short-term exposure limit): usually determined by a 15-minute sampling period.

µg/m3 = micrograms per cubic meter; g = grams

Key Points
  • OSHA’s current 8-hour TWA for beryllium is 2 µg/m3. Research shows that this level may not be protective.
  • The EPA regulation for beryllium emissions in air is 10 g in a 24-hour period.
Page last reviewed: May 23, 2008