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summa

Posted at 5:24 a.m. EST Friday, December 15, 2000

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Beryllium found in workers' cars, homes

ELMORE, Ohio (AP) -- An environmental group said it found a material linked to a fatal lung disease in the cars and homes of some Brush Wellman workers, putting families at risk.

Ohio Citizen Action said Thursday it found dust from the metal in the homes and cars of six current and former Brush Wellman employees. The group also said the metal was found on the car of a resident who lives near the plant in this city 20 miles southeast of Toledo.

Brush Wellman processes beryllium, long used in nuclear weapons.

In a statement, Brush Wellman denied the allegations and said it works to make sure beryllium stays on site by making employees shower and change out of their company uniforms before going home.

``Ohio Citizen Action has a history of this kind of sensational fear-mongering which does a great disservice to the community,'' the statement said.

The Rev. Keith Davis, who lives near the plant, said he was surprised beryllium was found on the hood of his car. He said no one has explained his health risks.

``It's hard to describe my feelings when all the time we'd been assured there was nothing to fear,'' he said. ``I feel they should go out to the other people around. Perhaps there is a danger and we're not aware of it.''

Ohio Citizen Action wants an independent study of workers' and residents' homes and cars to determine how much beryllium has gotten off the site. It also said Brush Wellman should pay for medical testing of residents and workers' families.

Ohio Citizen Action said that while there are safety standards for the chemical found in the air, there are none for beryllium found in dust form.

``Anything over zero is a potential health risk. It could have been in the air at higher levels at one time,'' said Sarah Ogdahl, Toledo area program director for Ohio Citizen Action.

One of the highest levels found in this study was 3.2 micrograms per 0.335 square feet, found in a worker's car. In the air, the U.S. Department of Energy had a standard of 2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air. The department has admitted, however, that it wasn't sure exactly what level is safe.

Brush Wellman said beryllium in the air is normally 10 to 100 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency standard of 0.01 micrograms per cubic meter.


                  
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