The literature on beryllium disease, which results from exposure to beryllium (7440417) compounds, was reviewed. Acute beryllium disease is an acute response to beryllium exposure, characterized by nasopharyngitis, tracheitis, bronchitis, pneumonitis, dermatitis and/or conjunctivitis, which occurs during beryllium exposure and lasts less than 1 year. The chronic form was described as a pulmonary and systemic granulomatous disease which could develop years after cessation of beryllium exposure. An estimated 30,000 United States workers are at risk for occupational exposure to beryllium. Reported prevalences among occupationally exposed populations ranged from 0.3 to 7.0 percent, and from 0.9 to 14.0 percent, for the acute and chronic forms, respectively. Chronic beryllium disease varies in severity from being asymptomatic with only radiographic abnormalities to severely disabling chronic respiratory failure and cor pulmonale. The clinical course of chronic beryllium disease is variable and the prognosis is unpredictable. Pulmonary function tests reveal either an obstructive, restrictive, or interstitial defect. The interstitial defect is associated with a better prognosis than the obstructive or restrictive patterns. Radiographically, chronic beryllium disease is characterized by diffuse infiltrates and bilateral hilar lymphadenopathy. Noncaseating granulomas containing elevated beryllium content are usually found in many extrapulmonary tissues. Corticosteroids are currently the only available therapy for chronic beryllium disease. The diagnosis is frequently difficult, and criteria for the diagnosis of beryllium disease were provided. The major mode of prevention of beryllium disease is control of beryllium air concentrations. The author identifies the need for further research to elucidate the pathogenesis of beryllium disease.