Metals:

Beryllium

Beryllium is a light, hard metal with excellent neutron moderator/reflector properties. It is used in alloys with aluminum and cooper. It also is used in the components of warhead triggers. If beryllium is inhaled, it can result in chronic beryllium disease, a lung condition with symptoms similar to many lung diseases: shortness of breath, cough, and in some cases, night sweats, fatigue, and weight loss.

Cadmium

Cadmium is a soft metal used in alloys, solders, platings and coatings on components of warheads. It also is found in nickel-cadmium batteries. Cadmium, if absorbed into the body, usually by inhalation, can cause a number of health problems. The kidneys are most susceptible to damage, with protein being lost in the urine as an early finding and kidney failure as a possible outcome with high exposures.

Chromium (chromates)

Chromium is a hard steel-gray metal for hardening steel alloys. It is used extensively in the production of stainless steel and in corrosion-resistant coating/plating operations. Some forms of chromium can cause chronic dermatitis (rash).

Lead

Lead is a dense heavy metal used as a shield for radioactive substances. It is used as a shielding around radioactive material, glove boxes, radiation containment and vessels. Excessive exposure can affect the blood and nervous system.

Mercury

"Quicksilver" is a silvery-white metal that is a liquid at normal atmospheric temperature and pressure. It is used in batteries, barometers, thermometers, and in the enrichment of lithium to lithium-6 for use in nuclear weapons. Mercury, if absorbed into the body, can affect the nervous system.

Nickel

Nickel is a silvery hard metal used in alloys where corrosion resistance is required. It is used in coatings/plating, and in electrical contacts. Nickel most commonly causes an allergic dermatitis (rash) that clears with avoidance of further exposure.

Vanadium

Vanadium is a grayish silvery metal, has good corrosion resistance to alkalis, acids, and salt water. Industrially, most vanadium produced is used as an additive to improve steel. Some forms of vanadium can cause respiratory symptoms if inhaled. These symptoms resolve on removal from exposure.

Zirconium

Zirconium is a grayish-white shiny metal. This metal is used in the nuclear industry for cladding fuel elements (uranium fuel rods for reactors). Zirconium has been reported to cause, in rare instances, lung disease similar to chronic beryllium disease.

Metal Cutting Oils/Fluids

These are a variety of hydrocarbon-based oily materials used in machining to lubricate the tools and the parts being machined. These fluids, especially if allowed to become contaminated with bacteria or fungi, can cause dermatitis (rash). Typically the rash clears with removal from the offending agent and topical treatment.

Welding fumes

These are gases, smoke and fumes that are released during the welding process. Welding is the process of joining two or more metals together using heat, sometimes with pressure at a high melting point induced by electricity or gaseous combustion. This does not include welding performed in a totally enclosed inert gas-filled environment, such as in a glove box. Welding may cause lung damage, depending on the materials being welded and the safety precautions used.


 

Chemicals/Solvents:

Epoxy Resins

These substances are thermosetting resins or glues that are used as adhesives and surface coatings. Most commonly, epoxies can cause dermatitis (rash). Epoxies may also induce asthma. Exposure to some types of epoxies has been linked to an increase in the risk of bladder cancer.

Solvents such as Benzene

A solvent is a term that describes a substance (generally a liquid or gas) with the ability to dissolve another substance. Benzene itself is known to cause a form of leukemia (a blood cancer). Benzene and other similar solvents in sufficient dose can cause difficulty concentrating and decreased attention, especially in the short term.

Chlorinated Solvents, such as carbon tetrachloride

These were used as degreasing agents, especially in machining processes to clean parts. Some examples are trichloroethylene, “trike”, “TCE”, and methylene chloride. Besides acute effects on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), these solvents can cause liver and kidney damage with overexposure.

Hydrazine

Hydrazine is a colorless corrosive material used in jet and rocket fuels. Hydrazine can cause severe skin irritation, convulsions, and death. It is known to cause damage to the lung, liver and kidneys.

Methylene Dianiline

Methylene dianiline is a curing agent mixed with a few specialized epoxy resins. The most common heath effect is dermatitis (rash) from acute exposure. Methylene dianiline is considered a probable carcinogen in humans.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a colorless, gaseous compound used in making epoxy and plastic resins. It also is used as a preservative and as a disinfectant. Formaldehyde may induce asthma and also is a skin sensitizer.


 

Radioactive Materials:

Ionizing Radiation

Alpha or beta radiation is produced when charged particles are released from the nucleus. Internal intakes of plutonium may result in significant alpha radiation exposure. Uranium produces beta radiation. High doses of radiation are known to cause cancer.

Plutonium

Plutonium is a radioactive metal used as a reactor fuel. It also is used in the production of nuclear weapons, such as plutonium pits for triggers. Workers exposed to high intakes of plutonium such as from inhalation or wounds have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Tritium

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used in the production of some nuclear weapons and in other nuclear devices. The radiation would be a concern in specific accident scenarios.

Uranium

Uranium is a radioactive metal used in the production of nuclear fuel and nuclear weapons. Depending on the form and dose of uranium, the toxic effects to the kidneys may be more important than the radiation.

Radioactive Iodine

Radioactive Iodine is a grayish-black corrosive element used as a radioactive tracer. High doses damage the thyroid gland, causing fatigue and other symptoms.

Ultraviolet Radiation from the sun

There are "invisible" rays of radiation that come from the sun and can cause sunburn and other skin changes. Skin cancers may be caused by excessive sun exposure.


 

Other Substances:

Asbestos

It is a fibrous material once used extensively in fireproofing, insulation, boilers, ductwork, pipes, welders’ gloves and blankets, and in brake linings. Lung cancers, especially in smokers exposed to asbestos, are a concern.

Diesel exhaust indoors

This would be tailpipe exhaust from running any type of diesel engine in an indoor space. Some examples are running diesel machinery; running trucks or forklifts indoors. Diesel exhaust contains compounds that are carcinogens and that may cause lung damage.

 

Disclaimer: The information provided above is not intended to be a complete description of potential health effects, but information regarding some of the more common health effects.