Researchers in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), together with private industry along with other government agencies, have produced a brand new reference material for beryllium. Beryllium, an exotic rare-earth metal used like a hardener in high-performance alloys and ceramics, can cause berylliosis””a chronic, incurable and sometimes fatal illness. The brand new reference material is likely to dramatically improve methods used to monitor workers’ exposure and aid in contamination control in addition to toxicological research.
The utilization of beryllium in manufacturing goes back towards the creation of the atomic age. One of the scientists involved with the famous Chicago experiment referred to as Chicago Pile-1 to produce the very first artificial self-sustaining nuclear reaction in 1942 died of berylliosis in 1988. Besides the nuclear industry, the unique properties of beryllium allow it to be useful for the output of aircraft and supercolliders.
Beryllium dust can cause an ailment seen as a chronic skin and/or respiratory inflammation resembling pneumonia in susceptible individuals and may boost the chance of lung cancers with long periods of exposure. Treating the particles as a threat, the body’s immune system floods the affected area with white blood cells. The cells surround the beryllium particles and harden to create inflamed tissue nodules called granulomas. These granulomas can lodge under the skin or perhaps in lung tissue where they cause difficulty breathing and a host of other symptoms including fatigue, weight reduction and muscle pain. The condition, although treatable, is incurable.
The new Standard Reference Material, Beryllium Oxide Powder (SRM 1877), consists of high-fired crystalline beryllium oxide that’s been thoroughly characterized physically and chemically. The particles that comprise the powder come with an average diameter of approximately 200 nanometers and have been broken into aggregated clusters that will go through a 20 mesh screen. NIST scientists Greg Turk and Mike Winchester used a high performance inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry technique developed at NIST to certify the mass fraction (the number of pure beryllium within the beryllium oxide) within the compound. NIST provided its partners with support to perform the preparations and did the ultimate research into the solutions once they were completed.
According to Winchester, previous analytical tests for exposure monitoring trusted an easily dissolved form of beryllium which was not representative of what individuals could be exposed to within the field. The new SRM mimics the form of beryllium to which workers could be exposed a lot more closely and should facilitate a lot more representative and informative toxicological studies, more sensitive monitoring and more effective cleanup of contaminated areas.
The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration sponsored the introduction of the new SRM. NIST collaborators included the Savannah River Site in Aiken S.C.; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Bureau Veritas in Novi, Mich.; and also the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, W. Va.