Expert witness for Rocky Flats workers
violated gag order
A judge threatened
Tuesday to sanction Rocky Flats workers with beryllium
disease because their expert witness violated the
judge's gag order on his Web site.
Rocky Flats workers are suing beryllium producer
Brush Wellman Inc. of Cleveland. The workers allege that
the company conspired with the federal government to
conceal the danger of the extremely toxic metal so the
government would have beryllium to make nuclear weapons.
Jefferson County District Court Judge Frank Plaut
said he may let the jury know just how "intemperate"
expert witness Dr. David Egilman was in criticizing the
beryllium producer's attorneys, so they can decide
whether he is a credible expert.
Plaut ordered everyone involved in the case not to
talk -- or post anything on a Web site -- because the
current phase of the trial covers only the first eight
of 55 plaintiffs. He said he wanted no outside
commentary to influence the current or future juries.
The judge said Egilman's Web site referred to Brush
Wellman attorneys from the Dallas law firm of Jones Day.
One headline read, "New Jones Day Dirt" and mentioned
possible criminal activity. The judge called the posting
"a flagrant violation" of his gag order.
Egilman is a Brown University professor and frequent
expert witness on the health damages of asbestos and
beryllium. He has aided victims and infuriated targets
by posting incriminating documents on his Web site. His
www.egilman.com Web site was password-restricted on
Egilman testified in the beryllium trial last
Thursday that Brush Wellman planted articles in medical
journals claiming the metal was safe.
On Tuesday, plaintiffs' attorneys backed up that
assertion with a memo from Brush Wellman's safety
manager detailing a plan to discredit the science of its
critics and substitute its own.
The 1987 memo called for company doctors to write
articles for prestigious scientific publications
bolstering their insistence that people could work in 2
micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air without
danger of chronic beryllium disease.
The memo also called for "critical review" by company
scientists of "very damaging" publications by other
scientists that said beryllium disease could occur at
lower levels of exposure, and that beryllium might be
associated with lung cancer.
By the early 1990s, Rocky Flats was no longer
producing nuclear weapons. Reduced government demand for
beryllium combined with "hysteria" over the toxic
effects of beryllium raised the possibility of Brush
Wellman going out of business, according to a memo from
vice president Hugh Hanes.
In the same memo, Hanes admitted some processes in
the company's factories could not meet even the
2-microgram standard -- even though Brush Wellman had
been claiming to meet that standard for decades.
The plaintiffs wrapped up Tuesday with a taped ABC
interview with former Secretary of Energy Bill
Richardson admitting the Department of Energy had
opposed attempts to tighten the limit on beryllium
exposure in the 1970s. Richardson said at that time, the
first priority was building nuclear bombs and "the last
priority was safety and health."
"The collusion between the contractor and the DOE . .
. was incredible," Richardson said. "A deal was cut, and
Attorneys for Brush Wellman presented testimony from
former Rocky Flats machinist Theodore Ziegler that he
worked in the beryllium building at Rocky Flats without
being told of its dangers or to use a respirator to
Ziegler also said he was not told in 1983 that the
machine shop had exceeded the 2-microgram standard 94
times that year.
Contact Ann Imse at (303) 892-5438 or