LORAIN, Ohio (AP) -- A City Council committee has endorsed a plan to draft an ordinance that would bar companies from producing beryllium inside the city limits.
Dust from beryllium compounds can cause berylliosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. The city's Brush Beryllium plant manufactured the metal from the 1930s until it burned down after a beryllium boiler exploded in 1948.
At least six people who worked at or lived close to the plant died of chronic berylliosis. Another 21 workers and 20 people who lived near the plant during the 1930s and 1940s contracted the disease.
Cleveland-based Brush Wellman Inc., which makes beryllium, opened a plant in a Lorain industrial park in 1996.
The plant makes bronze alloys used in oil and gas drilling components, but it does not produce beryllium and there are no plans to start beryllium production there, said Brush Wellman spokesman Mike Hasychak.
``We feel the ban is unnecessary,'' he said. ``We also feel that beryllium can be handled safety. We do everything we can to protect the interests of our employees.''
A series of stories in The Blade of Toledo earlier this year led to federal investigations into Brush's beryllium operations nationwide. The Blade reported that hundreds of workers exposed to the metal's dust since the 1930s have contracted berylliosis.
``After reading the recent articles, it make you think that beryllium production can come back here again,'' said Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner.
Brush Wellman produces beryllium at about 12 plants, said company environmental health and safety director Marc Kolanz. One of those plants is near Toledo. At least 50 of its current or former workers have contracted berylliosis.
Beryllium is a hard, lightweight metal that has been used in nuclear weapons and now is used in electronic and automotive parts and some golf clubs.