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Ohio Citizen Action urges the Boy Scouts of America:
Recall beryllium rings

    
 

For immediate release:
January 23, 2001

For more information:
Amy Ryder (216) 861-5200

CLEVELAND -- Ohio Citizen Action today called on the Boy Scouts of America to halt the sales of their beryllium Eagle Scout ring and recall all beryllium-containing jewelry sold by their organization.

"Beryllium is a deadly metal. It should not be used to manufacture jewelry," said Amy Ryder, Cleveland Director for Ohio Citizen Action.

Beryllium is also used in military hardware, electronics, dental work, and automobiles. Beryllium is a hard, lightweight metal with an unusually high melting point. Brush Wellman, Inc., headquartered in Cleveland, is the largest producer of beryllium in the country.

People exposed to beryllium dust or fumes can develop chronic beryllium disease, an incurable lung ailment. A recent report by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that nearly one-tenth of Brush Wellman's workforce at their Elmore, Ohio plant has beryllium disease or has blood test results indicating they risked for developing it.

Ohio Citizen Action believes workers handling beryllium in other industries are unaware of the health dangers posed by the metal. "There are likely thousands of people out there working with beryllium whose lives are endangered because nobody is telling them that beryllium kills," said Ryder.

In her letter to BSA President, Edward Whitacre, Ryder wrote --

The Boy Scout catalog says ‘beryllium rings cannot be resized.’ Is this because the manufacturer knows of the dangers of beryllium? If so, what warning accompanies the ring when purchased by an Eagle Scout? What warnings do the ring manufacture workers receive prior to handling beryllium?

The workers who make the beryllium Eagle Scout ring are in danger of developing and dying from beryllium disease. While the ring manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of it's workers, we believe BSA can set a good example for its young members by discontinuing the sale of beryllium-containing jewelry.

A Dallas law firm recently filed a national class action lawsuit against Brush Wellman for beryllium medical testing for all current and former employees of all current and former Brush Wellman customers. The employees of the Boy Scouts ring manufacturer could be covered under this lawsuit if the manufacturer purchases their beryllium directly from Brush Wellman.

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Full text of Ryder letter

January 23, 2001

Edward E Whitacre, Jr., President
Boy Scouts of America, National Council
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015

Dear Mr. Whitacre,

We recently learned that your organization sells an Eagle Scout "Academy Style" ring made with beryllium. We urge the Boy Scouts of America to immediately halt the sale of all beryllium jewelry and issue a recall for a beryllium-containing jewelry sold by your organization.

In addition to Boy Scout jewelry, beryllium is used in military hardware, automobiles and airplanes, dental work, electronics, computers and cell phones. Working with beryllium and beryllium alloys can create toxic dust or fumes. People exposed to beryllium dust or fumes can develop chronic beryllium disease or develop lung cancer. Beryllium disease is often fatal and there is no cure.

There are no known safe levels of beryllium exposure. The federal government has set safety standards to protect the health of workers who handle beryllium and beryllium alloys. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently recognized that their own standards may not protect human health: "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recently obtained information suggesting that OSHA’s current 2 micrograms per cubic meter of air (micrograms/m3) eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium in the workplace may not be adequate to prevent the occurrence of chronic beryllium disease (CBD), a disabling and often fatal lung disease, among exposed workers." (Occupational Safety and Health Administration hazardous information bulletin, September 2, 1999).

The Boy Scout catalogue states that, "beryllium rings cannot be resized." Is this because the manufacturer knows of the dangers of beryllium? If so, what warning accompanies the ring when purchased by an Eagle Scout? What warnings do the ring manufacture workers receive prior to handling beryllium?

The workers who make the beryllium Eagle Scout ring are in danger of developing and dying from beryllium disease. While the ring manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of it’s workers, we believe BSA can set a good example for its young members by discontinuing the sale of beryllium-containing jewelry.

For more information about the dangers of beryllium, please contact —-

  • Dr. Lee Newman, National Jewish Medical and Research Center (303) 398-1906
  • Dr. Peter Infante, Director of Standards Review, OSHA, (202) 693-2093
  • Ohio Citizen Action, (216) 861-5200
  • "Deadly Alliance," Toledo Blade (6 part series about the history of the beryllium industry)

Please notify us of any decisions you make regarding this request. Thank you for your immediate attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

Amy K Ryder
Cleveland Director