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The Annals of Occupational Hygiene
Year: 2011  |  Volume: 55  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 43 - 56

Beryllium Metal II. A Review of the Available Toxicity Data

Christian Strupp    

Abstract: Beryllium metal was classified in Europe collectively with beryllium compounds, e.g. soluble salts. Toxicological equivalence was assumed despite greatly differing physicochemical properties. Following introduction of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation, beryllium metal was classified as individual substance and more investigational efforts to appropriately characterize beryllium metal as a specific substance apart from soluble beryllium compounds was required. A literature search on toxicity of beryllium metal was conducted, and the resulting literature compiled together with the results of a recently performed study package into a comprehensive data set. Testing performed under Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development guidelines and Good Laboratory Practice concluded that beryllium metal was neither a skin irritant, an eye irritant, a skin sensitizer nor evoked any clinical signs of acute oral toxicity; discrepancies between the current legal classification of beryllium metal in the European Union (EU) and the experimental results were identified. Furthermore, genotoxicity and carcinogenicity were discussed in the context of the literature data and the new experimental data. It was concluded that beryllium metal is unlikely to be a classical nonthreshold mutagen. Effects on DNA repair and morphological cell transformation were observed but need further investigation to evaluate their relevance in vivo. Animal carcinogenicity studies deliver evidence of carcinogenicity in the rat; however, lung overload may be a species-specific confounding factor in the existing studies, and studies in other species do not give convincing evidence of carcinogenicity. Epidemiology has been intensively discussed over the last years and has the problem that the studies base on the same US beryllium production population and do not distinguish between metal and soluble compounds. It is noted that the correlation between beryllium exposure and carcinogenicity, even including the soluble compounds, remains under discussion in the scientific community and active research is continuing.

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