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The Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Year: 2011  |  Volume: 55  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 30 - 42

Beryllium Metal I. Experimental Results on Acute Oral Toxicity, Local Skin and Eye Effects, and Genotoxicity

Christian Strupp    

Abstract: The toxicity of soluble metal compounds is often different from that of the parent metal. Since no reliable data on acute toxicity, local effects, and mutagenicity of beryllium metal have ever been generated, beryllium metal powder was tested according to the respective Organisation for Economical Co-Operation and Development (OECD) guidelines. Acute oral toxicity of beryllium metal was investigated in rats and local effects on skin and eye in rabbits. Skin-sensitizing properties were investigated in guinea pigs (maximization method). Basic knowledge about systemic bioavailability is important for the design of genotoxicity tests on poorly soluble substances. Therefore, it was necessary to experimentally compare the capacities of beryllium chloride and beryllium metal to form ions under simulated human lung conditions. Solubility of beryllium metal in artificial lung fluid was low, while solubility in artificial lysosomal fluid was moderate. Beryllium chloride dissolution kinetics were largely different, and thus, metal extracts were used in the in vitro genotoxicity tests. Genotoxicity was investigated in vitro in a bacterial reverse mutagenicity assay, a mammalian cell gene mutation assay, a mammalian cell chromosome aberration assay, and an unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS) assay. In addition, cell transformation was tested in a Syrian hamster embryo cell assay, and potential inhibition of DNA repair was tested by modification of the UDS assay. Beryllium metal was found not to be mutagenic or clastogenic based on the experimental in vitro results. Furthermore, treatment with beryllium metal extracts did not induce DNA repair synthesis, indicative of no DNA-damaging potential of beryllium metal. A cell-transforming potential and a tendency to inhibit DNA repair when the cell is severely damaged by an external stimulus were observed. Beryllium metal was also found not to be a skin or eye irritant, not to be a skin sensitizer, and not to have relevant acute oral toxic properties.

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