Basic Information about Beryllium in Drinking Water
Beryllium at a Glance
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) = 0.004 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or 4 parts per billion (ppb)
Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) = 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb
Some people who drink water containing beryllium in excess of the MCL over many years could develop intestinal lesions.
Chemical Abstract Service Registry Number
Sources of Contamination
Discharge from metal refineries and coalburning factories; discharge from electrical, aerospace and defense industries
EPA regulates beryllium in drinking water to protect public health. Beryllium may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA.
- What is beryllium?
- Uses for beryllium.
- What are beryllium's health effects?
- What are EPA's drinking water regulations for beryllium?
- How does beryllium get into my drinking water?
- How will I know if beryllium is in my drinking water?
- How will beryllium be removed from my drinking water?
- How do I learn more about my drinking water?
What is beryllium?
Beryllium is an inorganic metallic element in the periodic table. Because it is an element, it does not degrade nor can it be destroyed. Compounds of beryllium are either white or colorless and do not have a particular smell.
Uses for beryllium.
The greatest use of beryllium is in making metal alloys for nuclear reactors and the aerospace industry. Other uses are as an alloy and oxide in electrical equipment and microwave ovens.
If you are concerned about beryllium in a private well, please visit:
This health effects language is not intended to catalog all possible health effects for beryllium. Rather, it is intended to inform consumers of some of the possible health effects associated with beryllium in drinking water when the rule was finalized.
What are EPA's drinking water regulations for beryllium?
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine the level of contaminants in drinking water at which no adverse health effects are likely to occur. These non-enforceable health goals, based solely on possible health risks and exposure over a lifetime with an adequate margin of safety, are called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). Contaminants are any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substances or matter in water.
The MCLG for beryllium is 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb. EPA has set this level of protection based on the best available science to prevent potential health problems. EPA has set an enforceable regulation for beryllium, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies. In this case, the MCL equals the MCLG, because analytical methods or treatment technology do not pose any limitation.
The Phase V Rule, the regulation for beryllium, became effective in 1994. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires EPA to periodically review the national primary drinking water regulation for each contaminant and revise the regulation, if appropriate. EPA reviewed beryllium as part of the Six Year Review and determined that the 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb MCLG and 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb MCL for beryllium are still protective of human health.
States may set more stringent drinking water MCLGs and MCLs for beryllium than EPA.
How does beryllium get into my drinking water?
Beryllium naturally enters surface water and ground water through the weathering of rocks and soils or from industrial wastewater discharges. The major source of environmental releases from human activities are coal and fuel oil combustion.
A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requires facilities in certain industries, which manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. For more information on the uses and releases of chemicals in your state, contact the Community Right-to-Know Hotline: (800) 424-9346.
- EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Web site provides information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, and land.
How will I know if beryllium is in my drinking water?
When routine monitoring indicates that beryllium levels are above the MCL, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of beryllium so that it is below that level. Water suppliers must notify their customers as soon as practical, but no later than 30 days after the system learns of the violation. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.
If your water comes from a household well, check with your health department or local water systems that use ground water for information on contaminants of concern in your area.
How will beryllium be removed from my drinking water?
The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing beryllium to below 0.004 mg/L or 4 ppb: activated alumina, coagulation/filtration, ion exchange, lime softening, reverse osmosis.
How do I learn more about my drinking water?
EPA strongly encourages people to learn more about their drinking water, and to support local efforts to protect the supply of safe drinking water and upgrade the community water system. Your water bill or telephone book's government listings are a good starting point for local information.
Contact your water utility. EPA requires all community water systems to prepare and deliver an annual consumer confidence report (CCR) (sometimes called a water quality report) for their customers by July 1 of each year. If your water provider is not a community water system, or if you have a private water supply, request a copy from a nearby community water system.
Other EPA Web sites
- Find an answer or ask a question about drinking water contaminants on EPA's Question and Answer Web site or call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791
- The Air Toxics Web site describes health effects associated with inhalation of beryllium
- EPA Integrated Risk Information System
Other Federal Departments and Agencies