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The alkaline metal Beryllium is highly valuable in many of its forms, such as the gemstones emerald and aquamarine which it is found in. The element is also frequently used in aerospace technology for its resilience to wear. However, in your water supply, Beryllium is potentially very hazardous to your overall health. 

What is Beryllium in Water?
What are the potential risks caused by Beryllium in Water?
What are methods of Water filtration and protection from Beryllium?

Beryllium is a rarely occurring element in the environment but its industrial purposes are many. The aerospace industry uses Beryllium as an alloying material for making satellites, nuclear reactors, and various parts of spacecrafts. Adding Beryllium to other metals makes the final product resistant to wear and sparking, which gives the material much of its industrial purpose. Beryllium is often alloyed with copper for broader uses to make the metal stronger and more long lasting. The resulting metal is used in computers, many electronics, and various car parts. Beryllium is introduced to water supplies as a contaminant as a result of both its natural occurrence and its industrial purposes. 

Because of its natural presence, Beryllium exists in coal and is released when the substance is burned. This is one of the contaminant’s main sources of introduction to the immediate environment, and ultimately, drinking water supplies. Another main cause of Beryllium’s presence in water sources is its release into the air and soil as a result of its various industrial uses. Emitted from resource extraction, processes of manufacture, and resulting industrial waste, Beryllium in the air and soil has the opportunity to eventually settle into ground and surface water sources. The human-introduced and naturally occurring amounts of Beryllium both occur in soluble and insoluble forms, but only the soluble forms mix into water and can be absorbed by the human body.  However, pH levels of natural water sources, which vary geographically, affect the contaminant’s solubility. While a neutral pH encourages insoluble forms to maintain their condition, both high and low pH levels make Beryllium more water-soluble, and thus more potent in water supplies. This nature of the element means that Beryllium contamination in water is likely to vary by location. This link provides a map of the United States that displays average pH variation across the country. Click here to learn more about the pH levels in your area:

(Keep in mind, a pH value near 7 is considered “neutral”)

What are the potential risks caused by Beryllium – Inorganic Chemicals in Water Supply?

While the health effects of Beryllium inhalation are well documented, and very damaging, the consequences of the contaminant’s ingestion through water are in the early stages of scientific documentation. In fact, as of 2003, studies of this kind were only being conducted in the United States. Though no human studies have yet been performed, rat and beagle studies, where the subjects were consistently fed Beryllium containing water over a period of time, resulted in cases of rickets and intestinal lesions. Though human effects have not been confirmed, these studies shed light on the kind of health complications Beryllium ingestion likely causes in people. More alarmingly, studies show that workers who dealt with Beryllium processing over their lifetime were twice as likely to develop lung cancer. This observation suggests that the contaminant has carcinogenic properties and advocates for minimizing one’s consumption of the substance.

Benefits of Water filtration and protection from Beryllium – Inorganic Chemicals

Fortunately, there are various water treatment options which successfully reduce the contaminant’s potency in water supplies. Reverse-osmosis filters are known to reduce Beryllium contamination levels by an approximate average of 25%. This filtration process involved sending water through a membrane which only allows particular substances to pass through. In a reverse-osmosis filter, Beryllium would be unable to pass through the membrane while pure water is able to pass through to the other side, reducing the overall contamination of the water. Active alumina filtration is another effective method of reducing Beryllium contamination. In this system, an aluminum compound substance works to attract contaminant particles, like Beryllium, to its surface. This method has the added bonus of removing other particularly dangerous contaminants, like arsenic, and is more effective for filtering large volumes of water.

Any water supplied from a public supplier is required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be kept to a standard of .004 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 4 parts per billion (ppb) maximum. The EPA sets public standards for water health and is a great resource for information on all recognized contaminants. For more information on Beryllium as well as general drinking water contamination, please see EPA’s primary drinking water regulations. Using water filters at home or at institutions can easily do water filtration for all uses. Water filtration helps to protect from serious waterborne problems or risks to health. It is highly recommended for protection from Water contaminants found in Water supply that cause Water pollution.