May 2, 2000
1. Did you know?
- Did you know?
- Beryllium victims are suing Brush Wellman. Here are some of their stories:
- If you had the opportunity to talk with a member of the Brush Wellman board of directors or Gordon Harnett, CEO, what would you say?
- Beryllium disease is an incurable, often fatal lung disease.
- No one has ever determined a safe level of beryllium exposure (Kathleen Fagan, MD, occupational medicine specialist, 3/27/00)
- One hundred Brush Wellman workers have contracted beryllium disease from the Elmore and Tucson plants (Toledo Blade, 4/8/00 and Arizona Daily Star, 5/9/99).
- Sixty-seven workers from these plants have abnormal blood tests, indicating they are at risk for developing beryllium disease (Toledo Blade, 4/8/00 and Arizona Daily Star, 5/9/99).
- Five contract workers in Tucson and Elmore have contracted chronic beryllium disease (Toledo Blade, 4/8/00 and Arizona Daily Star, 5/11/00).
- The Ohio EPA is having to provide medical testing to 60 of its employees who could have been exposed to beryllium at the Elmore facility (Ohio EPA, March 2000).
- On April 19, ABCís 20/20 ran a 14 minute segment about the deal Brush Wellman struck with the government to preclude stronger health standards for beryllium, and about the workers who have gotten sick and died as a result of that deal.
- Four contract firms, Duffey Concrete Cutting, Inc., Northwood Door, Sponseller Group, Inc., and Rudolph/Libbe Companies, Inc., have withdrawn their business from the Elmore plant out of concern for the health and safety of their workers (Toledo Blade, 11/10/99).
- On December 27, OSHA cited Brush Wellman for 19 violations, including overexposing workers to beryllium (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, December 1999).
- On September 2, 1999, OSHA issued a Hazardous Information Bulletin to warn workers that the current 2 micrograms per cubic meter standard for beryllium exposure may not protect their health (Occupation Safety and Health Administration, 1999).
- In April, a nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against Brush Wellman on behalf of all American workers exposed to beryllium while employed by Brush customers. The lawsuit, which demands medical testing to determine if they have beryllium disease, estimates tens of thousands could be eligible for this testing.
- A similar lawsuit was filed on February 14, 2000, by the Northwestern Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council on behalf of their members who have done contract work at the Elmore plant. The Council believes up to 7,000 contract workers could have been exposed to beryllium at the Brush Wellman facility.
- Brush Wellman CEO Gordon Harnett has received over 1,400 letters from citizens across Northeast Ohio asking that Brush Wellman pay for medical testing for all current and former Brush workers and contract workers, and that the company pay for independent health study in Elmore and Tucson.
- Harold Weingard, manager of the Elmore plant, has received over 3,000 letters with the same requests, from citizens across Northwest Ohio.
- James Feldhouse, plant manager of the Lorain plant, has received over 400 letters from Lorain residents, asking for a commitment to keep the Brush facility in Lorain beryllium free.
2. Beryllium victims are suing Brush Wellman.
Here are some of their stories:
- Betty Lemke has filed suit against Brush on behalf of her late husband Galen "Butch" Lemke. Mr. Lemke was diagnosed with beryllium disease in 1970. He spent 15 years unable to breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.
- Janet Bostater is suing Brush on behalf of her late husband, Francis Ray Bostater, who died in 1998 of beryllium disease. Mr. Bostater started working at Brush in 1959. The Bostaterís son, Randy, also has beryllium disease.
- David Sewell Beckley, a mechanic in the alloy maintenance department, contracted beryllium disease at the Elmore plant. According to the lawsuit, management told him that respirators were not needed.
- Gary Renwand Jr., who works at the plant in Elmore, was diagnosed with beryllium disease in October of 1999. His father, Gary Sr., a former Brush worker, was himself diagnosed with the illness in 1993 and now cannot breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.
- Dave Marko, a former furnace operator at the Elmore plant, was diagnosed with beryllium disease in 1998 after working in the Elmore plant for 16 years. His suit states that he worked in several parts of the plant where ventilation was inadequate.
- Randy Lee Bostater contracted beryllium disease after being exposed to what he claims as unsafe levels of toxic dust. He worked 15 years in service maintenance.
- Steve Doncouse, a 39-year-old pipefitter, also has the disease even though he never handled beryllium. Mr. Doncouse believes he was exposed to the dust while doing contract work for Brush.
- Denny McAnally, a 34-year-old ironworker with beryllium disease, also did contract work at the Elmore plant.
- David Norgard has filed suit for breach of contract. He alleges that Brush reneged on a written agreement that guaranteed his salary if he were to develop a disability related to beryllium. Mr. Norgard is a former furnace operator for Brush.
- Jack Miller is filing a wrongful death suit on behalf of his late wife Marilyn Miller. Marilyn was exposed to beryllium while she worked at the Brush plant in Luckey, Ohio. Mrs. Miller, who died at the age of 68, spent the last ten years of her life confined to an oxygen tank.
- Christina Moomey worked in the Brush plant in Luckey for less than three years before she contracted beryllium disease. According to the lawsuit, she worked on a milling machine which at one point did not have a hood or ventilation directly overhead.
- Mike Shutters never worked for Brush Wellman and never manufactured beryllium. He is a 39 year old electrician who worked for a contracting firm. Mr. Shutters worked outside the Elmore plant and occasionally passed through the facility on his way to lunch. He never wore a respirator when working near the plant, and was never told to.
3. If you had the opportunity to talk with a member of the Brush Wellman board of directors or Gordon Harnett, CEO, what would you say?
"My father died just after New Yearís Eve in 1983. He was a maintenance man for Brush Wellman for 25 years. He was diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease in the mid-70ís. He wore his respirator every day and took a shower at the plant as per company policy. I remember he had surgery to remove a portion of his lung when I was a teenager. During the nearly ten years that my dad suffered from beryllium disease, he went from weighing 200 pounds to 125. It was just after Thanksgiving of 1982 that he went on a respirator permanently. Less than two months later he died. I hope Brush Wellman will stop lying the way they lied to my family."
-- Renee Johnson, daughter of beryllium disease victim
"My husband, David, died of beryllium disease. We were married for 55 years before he passed away at the age of 76. He worked at the Brush Wellman plant for five years. At the time, the company did not provide respirators for all of the workers and there were not enough showers at the plant for the men to use. I used to wash his contaminated work clothes at home. In the last ten years of his life David went from 172 pounds to less than 100. He became a shell of a man. We were afraid to pick him up. The seven years prior to his death he never went anywhere without his oxygen tank. It was a very painful and debilitating disease. Why werenít there respirators for the men to wear, and why werenít there enough showers for them to use?"
-- Adeline Sulewski, widow of beryllium disease victim
"Had you provided me the information to know the danger this material proposes I would have taken precaution to protect myself and my daughter from exposure. Thankfully, my tests for beryllium disease came back negative. Unfortunately I donít have the money to have my daughter tested, who may have been exposed to beryllium from my work clothes."
-- Pamela Rowden, former Brush Wellman security guard
"Since I have come down with beryllium disease, my whole life style has changed as well as my wifeís. My disease is getting progressively worse as time goes on. I now have to sleep with a c-pack breathing apparatus to help me breath at night. I also have type 2 diabetes, and I am on oxygen 24 hours a day from taking high doses of steroids. Itís possible that Mr. Harnett and other people in management in Cleveland did not know what was really going on in the Elmore plant. Management in Elmore knew what was going on, but they did not want a black mark against them. So their reports to Cleveland management was that everything was okay at the Elmore plant. Now that Cleveland management knows whatís been going on in the Elmore plant, Mr. Harnett, let's get the Elmore plant cleaned up and get the air counts lowered! It is about time that you and all management admit to all the wrongdoings over the years. The employees with beryllium disease do not want the plant to shut down, and believe that the plant can be cleaned up and the air counts lowered. If there is no way that they can get the air counts lowered and cut out beryllium disease, then the plant should be shut down until it is cleaned up and the air counts are at a safe level, so that no one else dies from this terrible disease."
-- Gary Renwand, Sr., former Brush Wellman employee
"Through your inactivity, you are directly responsible for the overexposure of thousands of employees of Brush Wellman, as well as the neighbors of your facility. Itís high time you make restitution personally for this crime. I never worked to close Brush Wellman. I donít want the company destroyed. I do, however, want you to be held responsible for the effects your cost minimization processes have on the health of your employees and neighbors. I criticized the operations at the plant out of concern for my health and the health of the other workers. Rather than listening to me, you tried to silence me by firing me. If you are so threatened by me, then I must be on the right track."
-- Glenn Peterson, former Brush Wellman employee