View Full Version : Nickel Beryllium Questions

03-03-2004, 07:00 PM
When I went to do one of the pours at the foundry today, they handed everyone an N95 filter mask. This is unusual, and as I slapped the mask on, I asked what it was we were pouring, "Nickel beryllium." was the answer I got. Uh, oh, I thought. That's nasty stuff to be playing with, and in checking the MSDS sheets on it, I found a lot of really unhelpful information. I already knew the stuff was bad, which is what the sheet told me, it also told me exposure levels above X#PPM was really bad. Gee, thanks guys, but I've got no way of knowing how many PPMs of the stuff might have been floating about. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//rolleyes.gif

What I want to know is would that filter mask keep me safe, or should I have been wearing a "spacesuit" when I was pouring the stuff? (I sure as **** am not wanting to machine the stuff. Bad enough that I smoke, I don't want to be dumping stuff in my lungs that'll kill me even faster.)

I don't know how much of the stuff we poured, the furnace will hold about 800 lbs of molten steel, and this was a full load of the stuff in the furnace.

03-03-2004, 07:12 PM
Try http://msdsonline.com/

My brother who works with these kind of questions, says not to work around the stuff, the vapor from the molten stuff is sub micron in size, so no filter will be effective. He recommends an self contained air supply or run a hose to the outside world and get what fresh air supply you can.

This is considered to be a light metal so I can't tell you what the weight could be when compared to steel.

Either way, I wouldn't work with stuff.

03-03-2004, 08:03 PM
SAme stuff they make R/C boat propellors out of. Remember reading the directions saying to be careful when sharpening of the dust.

Paul Alciatore
03-04-2004, 02:07 AM
I'm not a fan of government intervention but this may be a case where they might do some good. It sounds like your company is just completely ignoring safety. Dare I say OSHA?

Paul A.

03-04-2004, 04:02 AM
Link to some info I found on Google. http://tis.eh.doe.gov/be/aboutbe.html

03-04-2004, 12:07 PM
I read the Government web site on this stuff and I would be getting my name on the record for exposure to this stuff. This looks like the asbestosis problem that the workers in WW II were exposed to and developed symptoms 30 years later. You would not like the out come.


03-04-2004, 12:38 PM
BeNi has about 2 percent Be maximum. That is about the same with BeCu. I paid for a study in our plant a few years ago and traveled around to various companies and DOE facilities that work with Be to get information on the health and safety aspects before we decided if we wanted to take on a big defense job working with Be. I have worked in and toured some Be and Be oxide machining facilties. One question I happened to ask was about the hazard from BeCu which has only 2 percent Be. A DOE industrial hygene guy said the hazard was about 2 percent of the hazard of pure Be. He added that it was actually a little higher because there is a broad assumption that the Be is tied up in the alloy and was therefore safe so people treated it the same as standard copper. The same goes for Be nickel. BTW the MSDS for nickel is bordering on bogus scare information as the real and extensive history of health effects of nickel show that nickel is a very small hazard. DOE has 40 years of detailed data on that and there is a lot of argument about why OSHA, EPA and the MSDS are overdoing the hazard of nickel. I would not be particularly scared of BeNi and I think the simple mask is adequate protection. Your smoking is much more a hazard to your health than the NiBe you might get from casting and machining. Casting and machining lead is a much larger hazard for example. You don't eat lead on your Cherrios and breath the vapors with Be if you eat it, it goes right through you with no effects, just don't breath it. Smoking enhances the bad effects of other things that get in your lungs like house dust, brake shoe dust, welding fumes, pollen etc. I am sure you have heard that before though. Good luck with breaking the addiction to nicotine (a good insecticide).

03-04-2004, 05:03 PM
The MSDS is next to useless if you want to evaluate a hazard quantitatively.

Basically you need to know the concentration of the substance in the air, the concentration limit you should be exposed to (TLV, PEL) and how good the mask system you are using is. Recognize, a mask system has limits of concentration which it is effective for.

A N95 is pretty much bottom of the barrel. Probably has a NIOSH APF rating (Assigned Protection Factor) of probably about 5. (An air-line pressure demand mask is about 1000).

Beryllium has a TLV (allowable concentration) of .002 mg/m3 = 2 parts in a billion – Very nasty stuff !!!! Nickel has a TLV of 1.0 mg/m3 = 1 part in a million. These are averages over 8 hours.

Assuming the mask is worn and fitted correctly, you wouldn’t want to be spending time in a place that had continuous concentrations of 5 mg/m3 (1 x 5) for nickel and .01 mg/m3 (.0002 x 5) for beryllium.

Since you don’t know what the concentration is… good luck. I’ve seen inoculation processes where the concentrations could go off the scale (probably well above 50 mg/m3) plus lots of other nasties. When molten, the chemistry is very active, who knows what is broken down and free to escape from its alloy and what is still locked up somehow when the evolving fumes (a.k.a very small particles) are formed. If you want to put something in your body quickly, breathe a fume. It can work as good as an injection with some substances.

I’d approach your safety guy and ask “if the provided respirator meets the approved MUC (Maximum Allowable Concentration) which you are being exposed to”. If he doesn’t know, then he doesn’t know **** about what risks he is exposing you too. You’re in a crap shoot with your health. I’d consider some heavy metal blood screening and keep my own records. Your widow might be grateful.


03-04-2004, 07:45 PM

Make sure you thouroghly wash up before eating or drinking and ask if you will do blood tests afterwards for Be for free - they should - OSHA has strict regulations on Be handling in the workplace because of its extreme toxicity. You might want to check with then as to minimum requirements.

I would not go near the ****. I have a BeCu set up wedge that I keep in a sealed jar - I am waiting for an opportunity to sell it ($$$)

03-04-2004, 08:29 PM
Be isn't going to show up in a heavy metal test, it isn't a heavy metal but one of the lightest. It isn't absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract but can cause a severe allergic reaction in the lungs. There is a blood test with predictive value for CBD (Chronic Beryllium Disease) which is an allergic response affecting up to 15% of people after first exposure.

03-04-2004, 11:15 PM
The usual maximum Be content of Ni Be alloys and CuBe alloys is 2 percent. Reduce all the Be fear hysteria by 98 percent.

The particle size of interest is 0.1 micron which is pretty small. Normal machined chips are a lot larger than that. A lot of shops that machine and grind Be use vacuum chip suckers right at the tool. This is not adequate. There are extensive procedures for safe handling of Be. There is also a really big load of scary misinformation. The real threat is careless handling in long term exposure. Again, it is important to realize that Be alloys in general have only 2 percent Be max. Most of the safety information is about pure Be and Beryllium oxide. The oxide is worse than the metal. I would not get very excited about a Be Ni alloy if it is a one time job and probably not even if it is steady work. Just get the proper information and follow good procedures. We decided not to take the job of making big structures of pure Be but we used BeCu alloys a lot.

Rich Carlstedt
03-05-2004, 12:18 AM
I was told by a Safety guy years ago, who worked with Be, that not everyone has exposure to it as a hazard. His explanation went like this (and is Much Simplified !)
"Be has micro particles that are shaped like triangles and 3 out of 4 people have round holes in their lung tissue, but the 4 th one has triangular holes and he is the one that the BE goes in and blocks off (permanently).
So much blockage....and a problem starts. The other aspect, is you don't know if you are a round hole or a triangular hole. Thats why some people are not affected whereas the guy next to him is nailed!"......

I thought that was a pretty good explanation about Be, but still you need to watch out.
Years ago I worked in a tube welding shop and the welding wheels were made from Be.
I don't recall anyone having problems, but guys that smoked were at much greater risk, because the particles got on the cigerettes from their hands...I call that Direct Injection

03-05-2004, 01:09 AM
Cass, unless you can post some good statistical data, I ain't buyin' your reassurances. No offense, but the US Gov't has this annoying habit of covering up the dangers of stuff when it comes to items which are used by the defense industry (60% of our contracts are military). Considering that as of Sept. 9, 1999 OSHA was advocating using something other than beryllium (and it's alloys) whenever possible, I'm leaning towards the position that it's probably as bad as they say it is (if not worse). Handy documentation can be found here: http://www.osha.gov/dts/hib/hib_data/hib19990902.html

I'm willing to admit that I probably didn't inhale a dangerous dose, but I've no way of knowing if that's the case or not. I've had no training on how to handle the stuff, period, paragraph. We've got no safety guy, and many of our employees are poorly trained, if at all.

As an example, I was chatting with the guy who runs our furnace today, and he was telling me that we had a group of folks there today who wanted us to create an experimental alloy for them. Naturally, I asked what the components were. He didn't know for certain, but knew that it was magnesium, iron, zinc, some kind of calcium compound, and something else. I casually mentioned that he needed to be careful with the magnesium, since it burns fairly easily, and there's not a whole helluva lot you can do to put out a magnesium fire once it gets going. He had no idea of what I was talking about. This guy's been running the furnace for years now, and he can get the creaky thing to hold any temperature he wants it to, even though most of the electronics are spotty at best, so he's not an idiot. Yet, he had no idea that magnesium burns, none of the folks involved bothered to mention it to him at all.

Needless to say, our hapless idiot of a metallurgist got things wrong, and the furnance did catch fire, but thankfully, no one got hurt and no serious damage was done.

I've printed off the OSHA guidelines for handling the stuff, I'm going to pull the owner of the company aside, hand him the guidelines, explain to him that we're not in compliance with them, and see what he has to say.

03-05-2004, 03:03 AM
I am glad you checked the OSHA rules for your own peace of mind - it is nasty stuff to work with - most shops will not touch it.

Because of the toxicity it is rarely used anymore except when spark proof tools are required in already a dangerous environment or its strength is required in relay contacts (usually sealed units).

03-05-2004, 04:52 AM
Hi Guys,

We have a house-sized extrusion press that was being used to extrude fuel elements for a nuclear reactor. The process of assembling a fuel element contains an end cap that has a high concentration of Beryllium and is welded in place on each end of the basic fuel element. The welder is an automatic type and is contained in a sealed off area with its own air supply vented to filters and ultimately to the atmosphere. The smoke off of the weld contains a high concentration of Beryllium. Whenever the fuel element is moved into the weld area or removed from the weld area the finely divided dust is spread around. We went into these areas whenever the weld machine malfunctioned. The company supplies clothing, safety equipment and has showers and the like to stop or minimize the amount of contaminated dirt on the workers. BUT, machinery operators, machinists, electricians, teamsters and others are testing positive for CBD [chronic beryllium disease]. All of the 9000 employees have been invited to be tested for CBD. As was mentioned earlier in this thread some people are sensitive to beryllium and some are not. It only takes a very low dosage to start the degeneration of the lungs if you are one of the sensitive ones. The disease progresses like emphysema with more and more sections of the lungs becoming coated with scar tissue. You tire easily as more and more of your lungs are affected and you die gasping for breath.

Beryllium is used in brass hammers, electrical contacts in relays, the sliding contacts on overhead cranes. Almost anywhere that copper or brass is used and needs to have superior hardening or wear properties. The company we work for knows about the hazards of this material, but if they admit that the stuff is everywhere and it is dangerous then they feel that they will be liable in the event of a lawsuit. The chips that are formed are not the problem it is the smoke off of the cutting tool

The building that housed the presses and the adjoining areas are being cleaned up and tore down, but the clean up is aimed at uranium and plutonium.

You are in deadly peril or you are not depending on whether or not you’re one of the sensitive ones. It is like hitting the bome with a hammer to see if you have a live one.


03-05-2004, 06:46 AM
Just check the MSDS on normal Lincolnweld 7018 welding rods.

At Sequoah nuclear plant steam generator change-out outage they had the top of containment area still sealed. LOTS of boilermakers were up there doing welds for the cut-out lifting of the roof section, prepping the top of the internal metal containment can for cutting and lifting out to access the generators. With no ventilation, climbing the 120 foot ladder you were panting already, attaining the top of the inner containment can, the smoke was about 3-4 feet off the floor and thick. Working up there for a hour or so and blowing your nose would produce intense black products from your nose.

Reading the MSDS on the welding rods confirm what I knew about nickel or low hydrogen welding. I asked the saftey man for a MSDS on the welding rods on site. He thereafter did not provide a msds and avoided me like the plague. Actually going the other way when he saw me.

Bringing attention to this loudly and vocally would have stopped the job. I know/knew this. Lots of people that depended on the money they made there to make it through the year.

My views, fck em.. Let them maintain thier own nuclear plant. I am sick enough. I have 3 bad discs in my back, my lungs have black spots on them from the chemical plants. I am so careful now my coworkers make fun of me.

When they sent me to work underneath the crane holding the 260 ton steam generator I quit. I hope to never work in another nuke.

I filed several grievances which were not settled by the union or the stewards. In other words nobody cares.

Take care of your own ass by being educated.


(for the ones who don't know) Nuclear containment at Sequoah is a metal can much like a coke can about 140 feet tall, with a concrete outer can about 15 feet taller, a section of the concrete roof was cut out, a section of the inner can was cut out and the 260 ton steam generator (part that heat exchanges nuclear steam to clean steam by tube contact) lifted out and replaced by the "made in Korea" replacements. The only hole the NRC allowed cut in the roof while in operation was a sealable 6 inch hole in the roof to pass pole scaffold through. A man had to stand right at the seal able hole all the time the plant was in operation. Once the prefab welding was done the plant went down, the large hole was cut and the generators lifted out.

gee I talk too much huh? sorry..

[This message has been edited by ibewgypsie (edited 03-05-2004).]

Al Messer
03-05-2004, 12:16 PM
Tuckerfan, if your owner has the same attitude about OSHA that many of the owners I worked for in the Nashville area, I can tell you exactly what he'll say when you pull him aside and explain that he's not in compliance: "You're fired!"