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The properties of beryllium resemble those of aluminum, zinc, and magnesium. The main routes of beryllium intake are inhalation and ingestion. The chemical properties of beryllium are such that transformation of soluble to insoluble forms of inhaled beryllium results in long retention time in the lungs. Absorbed beryllium is deposited mainly in the skeleton, where the biological half-time is fairly long. The lung is the critical organ of both acute and chronic noncarcinogenic effects. However, the lung effects caused by chronic exposure may be combined with systemic effects. Certain beryllium compounds have been shown to be carcinogenic in various experimental animals under differing routes of exposure. Epidemiologic studies present equivocal conclusions on the carcinogenicity of beryllium and beryllium compounds. A lifetime cancer risk for continuous inhalation exposure at 1 micrograms beryllium/cu m has been estimated.
Elias, R., K. Lavappa, M. Piscator, A. Reeves, AND C. Sakai. Health Assessment Document for Beryllium. Review Draft. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/8-84/026A (NTIS PB85168433).