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A New SRM for Better Beryllium Safety


Beryllium exposure poses a significant health risk, and a new SRM has been developed to enhance beryllium safety in the workplace. SRM 1877 Beryllium Oxide Powder consists of high-fired, crystalline beryllium oxide, with an average primary particle diameter of ≈ 200 nm, in aggregated clusters size separated to pass a 20 mesh screen. The mass fraction of beryllium is certified. Information values are provided for specific surface area, specific gravity, count median particle diameter, and mass median particle diameter. SRM 1877 is needed for validation of methodologies used for beryllium exposure monitoring and contamination control. It may also be used as a test sample for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Beryllium Proficiency Analytical Testing (BePAT) Program, as well as for toxicology research.


Beryllium and compounds containing beryllium are used in the production of high-performance alloys and ceramics employed in the aerospace, nuclear, defense, telecommunications, biomedical, fire prevention, automotive, and other industries. These chemicals pose a significant health risk for workers because exposure can cause beryllium disease, a chronic, incurable, and sometimes fatal illness, in susceptible individuals. Exposure is also thought to cause cancer. Exposure monitoring and contamination control depend upon reliable analytical methods for determining beryllium. For years, validation of these methodologies has been accomplished through analysis of reference samples composed of beryllium acetate and other easily digested forms of beryllium. Because the forms of beryllium found in the workplace are usually much more difficult to digest, this approach is unsatisfactory. Validation based upon relevant forms of beryllium, such as beryllium oxide, has not been possible, due to the lack of reference materials. SRM 1877 enables more meaningful validation of the analytical methodologies used for beryllium exposure monitoring and contamination control, enabling a safer working environment for workers in the affected industries. It is expected to also provide a useful test sample for the BePAT program and for toxicology research.

Additional Technical Details:

SRM 1877 was prepared and packaged by Brush Wellman, Inc. (Elmore, OH) according to NIST instructions. The beryllium mass fraction was certified using high-performance inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (HP-ICP-OES), a technique developed at NIST. For this exercise, HP-ICP-OES was employed with “exact matching,” meaning that the analyte mass fractions, internal standard element mass fractions, and solution matrices were carefully matched between calibration and sample solutions. This approach differs from the way that HP-ICP-OES has traditionally been used at NIST. Recent NIST research has shown that exact matching can improve the analytical accuracies and uncertainties attainable with HP-ICP-OES.

Preparations of solutions for analysis were performed by the Savannah River Site (Aiken, SC), the Y-12 National Security Complex (Oak Ridge, TN), and Bureau Veritas North America, Inc. (Novi, MI), all experts in working safely with hazardous beryllium oxide powder. NIST provided sample preparation spreadsheets and kits with everything needed to perform the preparations and to validate the analytical balances. The solutions were shipped to NIST for HP-ICP-OES analysis. This is the first time that an SRM has been certified based upon NIST analyses of samples prepared by collaborating laboratories. Providing the sample preparation spreadsheets and kits was necessary to accomplish exact matching and helped establish SI traceability of the certified beryllium mass fraction value.

Major Accomplishments:

  • Developed SRM 1877 Beryllium Oxide Powder
  • Certified beryllium mass fraction using HP-ICP-OES with exact matching
  • Established traceability to the SI while analyzing samples prepared by collaborating laboratories

Start Date:

September 1, 2006

End Date:

September 2008

Lead Organizational Unit:



Therese A. Butler
Michael R. Winchester

Associated Products:

SRM 1877 Beryllium Oxide Powder

Associated publications:

M.R. Winchester, G.C. Turk, T.A. Butler, T.J. Oatts, C.C. Coleman, D. Nadratowski, R. Sud, M.D. Hoover, A.B. Stefaniak, “Certification of Beryllium Mass Fraction in SRM 1877 Beryllium Oxide Powder Using High-Performance Inductively-Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry with Exact Matching,” Anal. Chem., 81, 2208-2217 (2009).


Michael R. Winchester
Phone 301-975-3886

Gregory C. Turk
Phone 301-975-4118