Beryllium is a chemical element with symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is created through stellar nucleosynthesis and is a relatively rare element in the universe. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Beryllium is a steel gray and hard metal that is brittle at room temperature and has a close-packed hexagonal crystal structure.
Beryllium improves many physical properties when added as an alloying element to aluminium, copper (notably the alloy beryllium copper), iron and nickel.
The commercial use of beryllium requires the use of appropriate dust control equipment and industrial controls at all times because of the toxicity of inhaled beryllium-containing dusts that can cause a chronic life-threatening allergic disease in some people called berylliosis.
Approximately 35 micrograms of beryllium is found in the human body, but this amount is not considered harmful.
Beryllium may be found in coal slag. When the slag is formulated into an abrasive agent for blasting paint and rust from hard surfaces, the beryllium can become airborne and become a source of exposure.
Beryllium and its compounds should be handled with great care and special precautions must be taken when carrying out any activity which could result in the release of beryllium dust (lung cancer is a possible result of prolonged exposure to beryllium-laden dust).