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Solubility and Chemistry of Materials Encountered by Beryllium Mine and Ore Extraction Workers: Relation to Risk

Deubner, David C. MD, MPH; Sabey, Philip BS; Huang, Wenjie MS; Fernandez, Diego PhD; Rudd, Abigail MS; Johnson, William P. PhD; Storrs, Jason MSOH; Larson, Rod PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 10 - p 1187–1193
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31822cfe38
Original Articles

Objective: Beryllium mine and ore extraction mill workers have low rates of beryllium sensitization and chronic beryllium disease relative to the level of beryllium exposure. The objective was to relate these rates to the solubility and composition of the mine and mill materials.

Method: Medical surveillance and exposure data were summarized. Dissolution of BeO, ore materials and beryllium hydroxide, Be(OH)2 was measured in synthetic lung fluid.

Result: The ore materials were more soluble than BeO at pH 7.2 and similar at pH 4.5. Be(OH)2 was more soluble than BeO at both pH. Aluminum dissolved along with beryllium from ore materials.

Conclusion: Higher solubility of beryllium ore materials and Be(OH)2 at pH 7.2 might shorten particle longevity in the lung. The aluminum content of the ore materials might inhibit the cellular immune response to beryllium.

From the Materion Brush Inc (Dr Deubner), Elmore, Ohio; Materion Natural Resources Inc (Mr Sabey), Delta, Utah; Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah (Ms Huang, Drs Fernandez and Johnson, and Ms Rudd), Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Utah (Ms Huang), and Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational Health and Safety (Mr Storrs and Dr Larson), Salt Lake City, Utah; and Dade Moeller Associates (Mr Storrs), Richland, Wash.

Address correspondence to: David C Deubner, MD, MPH, VP Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Materion Brush Inc, 14710 W Portage River S Rd, Elmore, OH 43543. E-mail:

Materion Brush Inc. manufactures beryllium materials. Materion Natural Resources Inc. mines beryllium ore and converts ore into beryllium hydroxide. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of Materion Corporation.

©2011The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine