FREELANCE INVESTIGATIONS EDITORIAL
A safety bulletin about Beryllium warning of the deadly nature of the metal when machined or burned dates back to October of 1972. Why then are any amounts of Beryllium still allowed to be burned in Huntington's Waste-to-Energy Facility every single day?
Beryllium is found in electronics, microwaves, airbags, and is used for luggage, clothing, aircraft parts and a whole range of consumer products that contain Beryllium.
Beryllium is deadly toxic when burned and inhaled in either a vapor, dust or particle form. Why then does the permit for the Covanta Facility in Huntington allow Beryllium to be burned 24 hours a day 365 days a year? Even the major United States manufacturer of Beryllium; Brush Wellman Corporation, warns of the dangers of burning Beryllium and the fact that even small amounts in vapor, dust or particle form that are inhaled, are deadly toxic and can lead to Chronic Beryllium Disease also known as Berylliosis.
Beryllium (Be) metal is the only stable lightweight metal with a high melting point; it has a high strength-to-weight ratio; and its alloying property confers to metals resistance to corrosion, vibration and shock.
Beryllium and its compounds are toxic in varying degrees. The hazard from exposure to these substances develops during material working and use. Soluble Beryllium compounds are generally more toxic than insoluble Beryllium compounds, however, due to the insidious nature of the physiological action of Beryllium as shown from recorded minute exposures, the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) recommended by the American Conference of Government and Industrial Hygienist (ACGIH) is 0.002 mg/cu meter of air.
The TLV of airborne Beryllium is minute and requires stringent engineering controls and safety procedures to assure personnel exposure is avoided. Due to the varying uses of Beryllium and its compounds and the various fabrication procedures that may be encountered the following general procedure shall be followed by all employees, departments and test facilities encountering Beryllium or any of its compounds or alloys.
1. The Corporate Safety Department shall be notified of any operation or procedure that may result in personnel being exposed to any form of Beryllium, its compounds or alloys.
2. The following information shall be required at the time of the Corporate Safety Department notification:
a. The Beryllium containing substance.
b. The quantity of this substance to be handled.
c. The handling operation involved (i.e., milling, drilling, etc.)
d. The number of personnel exposed
e. The physical location of where the Beryllium substances are to be used
Chronic Beryllium Disease and Beryllium Sensitivity Disease symptoms include but are not limited to: rashes, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and eye ulcers, enlarged heart, kidney problems and chronic sinusitis. If Beryllium in dust, vapor or particle form is introduced through the skin by a cut or puncture, non-healing ulcers may develop with target organs being; lungs, mucous membranes eyes and skin . ( Genium Publishing Corporation-Beryllium Metal/Powder)
Beryllium production was halted by Brush Wellman, the nation’s largest producer of Beryllium, in 2000 primarily due to economic and occupational and health reasons according to William Greenwalt, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Industrial Policy) for the United States.
Beryllium use in Europe is strictly limited and regulated by CERN, their nuclear regulatory agency which was already limiting future use and production for safety and health reasons as far back as 1985.
Beryllium production in the United States will continue unimpeded however. Thanks to the need by the Department of Defense for the military and aerospace applications, a brand new facility opened in Elmore, Ohio in 2011.
RISK TO FIREFIGHTERS INCREASING EXPONENTIALLY
Due to the fact that Beryllium is increasingly being used in cell phones and other modern technological devices this raises the question: are automobile, office building, airline or other fires currently being approached with the proper breathing apparatus and full coverage garments suggested when dealing with fires that contain Beryllium?
Were the first responders of 9-11 checked for Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), which requires an expensive and specific test (BeLPT) and can take decades to present its symptoms? Almost none have been tested for anything but Sarcoidosis, according to sources.
BURNING OF BERYLLIUM ALLOWED AT NEW YORK INCINERATORS DESPITE DEADLY WARNINGS AND DOCUMENTED HEALTH RISKS
Another serious question pertains to the fact that the EPA in New York allows the burning of Beryllium in the incinerators at all on Long Island or anywhere. This again, despite the fact that any and all sources with knowledge of Beryllium, including the Brush Wellman website strictly warn against being exposed to any level of Beryllium in a vapor, dust or particle form.
According to the National Jewish Health website "Studies have shown that breathing even seemingly trivial amounts of Beryllium can cause Chronic Beryllium Sensitization Disease and Chronic Beryllium Disease... Although it primarily attacks the lungs, it can also cause a rash, poor wound healing, or wart-like skin bumps, if it enters the body through an opening in the skin, such as a sliver or cut."
HUNTINGTON FACILITY BURNS BERYLLIUM EVERY SINGLE DAY
Despite these warnings against any exposure to Beryllium in vapor, dust or particle form, the permit for the Covanta Incinerator in Huntington allows for emissions of .0002 lbs/hour of Beryllium. (This limit represents BACT.) The permit is issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation in compliance with standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The permit also allows for the burning of a percentage of lead and mercury. The percentage of volume of lead allowed to be burned is roughly 1400 times as much as that of Beryllium, evidencing how toxic Beryllium actually is.
Freelance Investigations contacted Brush Wellman and asked if any amount of Beryllium being burned in incinerators that are located near neighborhoods would be safe. The following was the reply:
"The U.S. EPA restricts the amount of human-created beryllium that may be released into the air, which includes such sources as incinerators, industry and electric utilities. Electric utilities generate more than three times the volume of human-created beryllium released to air than the other sources combined. To ignore this and focus singularly on incinerators would, in our opinion, provide a very incomplete and potentially misleading representation of the facts. Moreover, I believe you should contact the US EPA for their views on the efficacy of their standards. That is our response to your inquiry. Thank you. Patrick Carpenter" (Brush Wellman) info in parenthesis added.
The Northport Power Station on Waterside Avenue and Eatons Neck Road, owned by National Grid also has permission to burn measured amounts of Beryllium and radionuclides. National Grid bought 53 old power plants from Key Span. Covanta operates several incinerators in neighborhoods on Long Island. Brookhaven Laboratory also has its own incinerator and it was burning radioactive waste and burying the fly ash in the ground and landfills, according to BNL reports.
According to the NPS AIR PERMITS for the Northport Power Station:
This facility consists of four (4) 385 MWe nominal turbine/generator boiler sets operating on natural gas, #1, #2, or #6 fuel oils. In addition, a 15 MWe nominal black start combustion turbine is maintained on site to meet load demand and emergency power requirements. In addition to #1, #2 and #6 fuel oil and natural gas, these boilers burn waste oil generated on site and at other company facilities for energy recovery, and incinerate citrosolv, a boiler cleaning solution, following boiler chemical cleaning. There are five (5) main tanks used for storing #6 fuel oil, ranging from 13,524,000 to 27,035,000 gallons. In addition, there are numerous smaller tanks used for storing distillate, lubrication and/or dielectric oils.
NESHAP National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (40 CFR 61) - contaminant and source specific emission standards established prior to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) which were developed for 9 air contaminants (inorganic arsenic, radon, benzene, vinyl chloride, asbestos, mercury, Beryllium, radionuclides, and volatile HAP’s)
Secret projects were carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and other sites on Long Island, where uranium was enriched for use in our nuclear arsenal and Beryllium was used in a multitude of military and other applications. This made dosage levels of people exposed to these carcinogenic elements impossible to calculate. It can sometimes take decades for the effects of Beryllium exposure to exhibit, and any person who was or is at risk because of exposure can now get financial and medical help through the Department of Labor, NIOSH and the EEOICPA.
In an earlier article, Freelance Investigations revealed there would now be money and medical compensation available for anyone working at Brookhaven National Laboratories or the old Sylvania Property in Hicksville, as well as their contractors and subcontractors during certain years. These people are presumed to have been exposed to Beryllium and radiation in levels that would be harmful to their health. One of the larger local contractors connected to BNL, where Beryllium was used extensively was Grumman Aerospace in Bethpage, Long Island. Anyone who worked there may be entitled to a free medical screening. Anyone who had a relative who worked there and is deceased from one of twenty three cancers or other covered medical conditions may also be entitled to monetary compensation. (See Freelance Investigations Article archives January 2010).
The following important information is provided to help people understand what Beryllium is what it does and the nature of its' effect on people's health, if they are exposed.
Brush Wellman Inc. is the nation's largest manufacturer and distributor of Beryllium, Beryllium Alloys and Beryllium Ceramics. The following information was gleaned from documents contained on their website.
Beryllium as a solid is not toxic. Beryllium dust or particulates created during machining or other processes can be highly carcinogenic and toxic if breathed into the lungs or if it settles on skin or in the eyes.
Beryllium is the fourth element on the periodic table of elements. Its' symbol is Be and it has an atomic weight of 9.01.
Beryllium is the second lightest metal we know, (the lightest is Lithium). Beryllium though light, is one tough metal and is used in the nuclear power industry for blast shields and reflectors and as a neutron moderator.
Beryllium has a very high melting point of 1,278 degrees C and has a very low density, which makes it ideal for use in military applications such as nuclear warheads, jet fighters (in F-16's and F-22's Be is used in over 340 parts), helicopters, spacecraft and satellites. It is used in the landing gear and brakes in military aircraft where only 100% Beryllium is used. In commercial aircraft they are most likely to use Beryllium alloys. Beryllium is used in the "gimbals" in which the Navy gyroscopes are mounted as it has high levels of elasticity.
Beryllium is used in the oil and gas industry for drill bits, because it is non-sparking and also for military optics, infrared and surveillance systems and sensors in military satellites.
Beryllium Oxide Ceramics (BeO) another division of Brush Wellman produces this ceramic material which is perfect for producing circuits, such as those carrying high currents or very dense circuitry, because it can withstand extremes in temperature and rapidly dissipates heat. Ideal for the wireless, telecommunications, power electronics, energy, medical and aerospace industries, beryllium ceramics allows for improved electrical performance particularly at high frequencies.
Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) is a lung disease for which there is no cure and which over
time will become fatal. The tissues of the lungs become inflamed and over time, fibrosis (scarring)
may restrict the oxygen flow between the lungs and the bloodstream.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists Beryllium as a known carcinogenic.
Although today the major players in the industry like Brush Wellman follow all the safety rules when handling Beryllium, as for Beryllium alloys and ceramics, years ago, things were different and regulations were non-existent.
When handled properly, there is little or no problem working with Beryllium. According to their website, Brush Wellman always takes great pains to ensure that regulations regarding its' handling and all International, Federal and State regulations are strictly followed.
Following is the label which accompanies Beryllium during shipment.
INHALING DUST OR FUMES MAY CAUSE CHRONIC BERYLLIUM DISEASE, A SERIOUS CHRONIC
LUNG DISEASE, IN SOME INDIVIDUALS. CANCER HAZARD. OVER TIME, LUNG DISEASE AND
CANCER CAN BE FATAL. TARGET ORGAN IS PRIMARILY THE LUNG.
READ THE MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET (MSDS) ON FILE WITH YOUR EMPLOYER BEFORE WORKING WITH THIS MATERIAL.
Overexposure to beryllium by inhalation may cause chronic beryllium disease, a serious chronic lung disease.
• If processing or recycling produces airborne dust, fumes, or mists, use exhaust ventilation or other controls
designed to prevent exposure to workers. Examples of such activities include melting, machining, welding,
grinding, abrasive sawing, sanding and polishing. Any activity which abrades the surface of this material can
generate airborne dust.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set mandatory limits on occupational
• Beryllium metal, in solid form and as contained in finished products presents no special health risks.
• Sold for manufacturing purposes only. This product can be recycled; contact your sales representative.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide training in the proper use of this
Calls to the State EPA and the New York State DEC to ask the reason for them allowing incinerators to burn any amount of Beryllium- considering the toxic nature of Beryllium in vapor, dust or particle form- were not returned as of time of publication. Any comments they would like to add to this would always be welcome.