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Issue 2, 2012
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Occupational exposure to beryllium in primary aluminium production

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Alumina used in the production of primary aluminium contains Be which partly vaporises from the cryolite bath into the workroom atmosphere. Since Be may be toxic at lower exposure levels than previously thought, the personal exposure to Be among workers in 7 Norwegian primary smelters has been assessed. In total, 480 personal Respicon® virtual impactor full shift air samples have been collected during 2 sampling campaigns and analysed for water soluble Be, Al and Na using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry. In addition, water soluble F has been measured by ion chromatography. The Be air concentrations in the inhalable, thoracic and respirable aerosol fractions have been calculated. The Be concentrations in the inhalable aerosol fraction vary between the different smelters. The highest GM concentration of Be in the inhalable fraction (122 ng m−3, n = 30) was measured in the prebake pot room of a smelter using predominantly Jamaican alumina where also the highest individual air concentration of 270 ng m−3 of Be was identified. The relative distribution of Be in the different aerosol fractions was fairly constant with the mean Be amount for the two sampling campaigns between 44–49% in the thoracic fraction expressed as % of the inhalable amount. Linear regression analysis shows a high correlation between water soluble Be, Al, F and Na describing an average measured chemical bulk composition of the water soluble thoracic fraction as Na5.7Al3.1F18. Be is likely to be present as traces in this particulate matter by replacing Al atoms in the condensed fluorides and/or as a major element in a nanoparticle sized fluoride. Thus, the major amount of Be present in the work room atmosphere of Al smelter pot rooms will predominantly be present in combination with substantial amounts of water soluble Al, F and Na.

Graphical abstract: Occupational exposure to beryllium in primary aluminium production

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Publication details

The article was received on 05 Jul 2011, accepted on 26 Aug 2011 and first published on 13 Oct 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1EM10539F
Citation: J. Environ. Monit., 2012,14, 353-359
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    Occupational exposure to beryllium in primary aluminium production

    N. P. Skaugset, D. G. Ellingsen, K. Dahl, I. Martinsen, L. Jordbekken, P. A. Drabløs and Y. Thomassen, J. Environ. Monit., 2012, 14, 353
    DOI: 10.1039/C1EM10539F

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