6,500 searchable pages of internal documents now on the internet
Although Brush keeps denying it, the company's own files confirm a deal to keep health standards weak

Brush Wellman archive

November 28, 2001

Amy Ryder
Ohio Citizen Action

Ohio Citizen Action today made available on the internet 6,500 pages of internal documents detailing the scandalous history of the beryllium industry and Brush Wellman. These searchable documents shine the light on the industry's dirty, dark secrets.

The documents reveal a backroom deal Brush Wellman cut with the federal government to abandon a proposed OSHA standard which would have drastically reduced worker’s exposure to highly toxic beryllium dust. Although Brush Wellman continues to emphatically deny the deal took place, their own documents confirm the agreement.

Other documents reveal --

  • The Atomic Energy Commission’s (now the Department of Energy) agreement to alleviate Brush of their legal liability to sick workers by paying Brush Wellman’s legal bills and monetary settlements for lawsuits filed by Brush workers who became sick as a result of working on government contracts;
  • Brush Wellman’s lobbying efforts to shape the beryllium compensation law and influence a recent GAO investigation;
  • An internal memo detailing a spill at the plant which left the employee parking lot covered in beryllium dust.

Ohio Citizen Action collected most of the documents from current and former beryllium workers and posted them in searchable pdf files on the internet with the help of the Environmental Working Group’s chemical industry archives project.

Beryllium, a hard, lightweight metal, is used in military hardware, automobiles, x-ray machines, dental work, telecommunications, electronics, computers and cell phones. Brush Wellman Inc., headquartered in Cleveland, is the largest producer of beryllium in the world. The company’s largest production plant is located in Elmore, Ohio.

People exposed to beryllium dust can develop chronic beryllium disease, an incurable, often fatal lung ailment. Nearly one-tenth of the workforce at the Elmore plant either has beryllium disease or is beryllium sensitized, indicating they are in danger of developing the disease (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 1997).

Health dangers associated with beryllium exposure are not limited to workers inside the plant, but also threaten the individuals living, working, and going to school in neighboring communities. Spouses of beryllium workers and individuals living near beryllium plants have contracted the deadly disease.

In October, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the government's lead environmental health agency, recently announced they would conduct an exposure investigation to determine the health dangers to neighbors of the Elmore facility. Agency officials say they are alarmed about lack of data tracking how beryllium leaves the plant site and about the inadequate EPA standards set to protect human health from beryllium air pollution.

This is the first health investigation conducted by any government agency in the more than four decades that the plant has been operating.

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