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J Microsc. 2014 Nov;256(2):145-52. doi: 10.1111/jmi.12170. Epub 2014 Aug 22.

Quantification and micron-scale imaging of spatial distribution of trace beryllium in shrapnel fragments and metallurgic samples with correlative fluorescence detection method and secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS).

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Department of Pathology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York, U.S.A.


Recently, a report raised the possibility of shrapnel-induced chronic beryllium disease from long-term exposure to the surface of retained aluminum shrapnel fragments in the body. Since the shrapnel fragments contained trace beryllium, methodological developments were needed for beryllium quantification and to study its spatial distribution in relation to other matrix elements, such as aluminum and iron, in metallurgic samples. In this work, we developed methodology for quantification of trace beryllium in samples of shrapnel fragments and other metallurgic sample-types with main matrix of aluminum (aluminum cans from soda, beer, carbonated water and aluminum foil). Sample preparation procedures were developed for dissolving beryllium for its quantification with the fluorescence detection method for homogenized measurements. The spatial distribution of trace beryllium on the sample surface and in 3D was imaged with a dynamic secondary ion mass spectrometry instrument, CAMECA IMS 3f secondary ion mass spectrometry ion microscope. The beryllium content of shrapnel (∼100 ppb) was the same as the trace quantities of beryllium found in aluminum cans. The beryllium content of aluminum foil (∼25 ppb) was significantly lower than cans. SIMS imaging analysis revealed beryllium to be distributed in the form of low micron-sized particles and clusters distributed randomly in X-Y- and Z dimensions, and often in association with iron, in the main aluminum matrix of cans. These observations indicate a plausible formation of Be-Fe or Al-Be alloy in the matrix of cans. Further observations were made on fluids (carbonated water) for understanding if trace beryllium in cans leached out and contaminated the food product. A direct comparison of carbonated water in aluminum cans and plastic bottles revealed that beryllium was below the detection limits of the fluorescence detection method (∼0.01 ppb). These observations indicate that beryllium present in aluminum matrix was either present in an immobile form or its mobilization into the food product was prevented by a polymer coating on the inside of cans, a practice used in food industry to prevent contamination of food products. The lack of such coating in retained shrapnel fragments renders their surface a possible source of contamination for long-term exposure of tissues and fluids and induction of disease, as characterized in a recent study. Methodological developments reported here can be extended to studies of beryllium in electronics devices and components.


Beryllium analysis with fluorescence detection method; SIMS imaging analysis of beryllium in metallurgic samples; beryllium in aluminum cans and foil; beryllium in electronic products; beryllium in shrapnel; chronic beryllium disease (CBD)

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