Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type

Non-Thesis Project

Committee Chair

Terry Spear


Beryllium is a naturally occurring element with many unique properties and a variety of uses. When combined with other elements, such as copper, specialized alloys may be made that are of particular value for certain applications. In the electrical industry copper beryllium alloys are frequently present in electrical components in the contactors, relays, springs and other metallic components. Though beryllium has many excellent physical properties and poses minimal to no human health hazard when in a solid finished form, inhaling the dust or fumes of beryllium containing materials can cause serious health issues. This project assesses whether removable beryllium surface contamination is present on four different types of electrical switchgear equipment.

A total of 119 wipe samples were collected from four different styles of electrical switchgear. All wipe sample results were well below the established criteria of 0.2 μg/100 cm2. Equipment sampled and results in μg/100 cm2 included Siemen Allis Contactors (CI95% 0.019, 0.029), Westinghouse Vacuum Circuit Breakers (CI95% 0.014, 0.019), Westinghouse Air Circuit Breaker (CI95% - 0.009, 0.047), and GE Power Vacuum Breaker (CI95% 0.02). In addition, 6 bulk samples were collected from 6 Westinghouse Vacuum Circuit Breakers with all results below the criteria established of 2 μg/g, (CI95% 0.21, 0.46).

Extensive surface beryllium contamination does not appear to be a credible concern for the pieces of electrical switchgear sampled.


A report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science Industrial Hygiene Distance Learning / Professional Track