Key events in the Brush Wellman good-neighbor campaign



March 1999: Resisting pressure from Brush Wellman, Toledo Blade editors decide to run a devastating expose of the company’s handling of beryllium, based on documentation gathered by local leaders Dave and Theresa Norgard.

April 1999: Ohio Citizen Action begins campaigning door-to-door for improvements at the plant. Before it was over, 20,000 Ohio Citizen Action members in all had written letters to Brush Wellman executives.

November 1999: Ohio Citizen Action holds a community meeting on Brush Wellman in Elmore; 150 people pack the hall, and fire marshals turn away another 40 at the door.

April 2000: Herron Testing Laboratories, in Independence, Ohio, tests copper beryllium for Brush Wellman, and had been exposing its workers to beryllium dust and fumes. Citizen Action canvassed door-to-door in the area, and hundreds of Ohio Citizen Action members wrote letters to the company president. As a result of employee complaints and pressure from Citizen Action, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the lab and cited Herron for not notifying their employees of the hazardous materials they were working with, for not providing training on how to handle toxic materials, and for allowing employees to eat and drink in a toxic environment. As a result, Herron management made significant improvements inside the plant to protect the health of the workers.

May 2000: The City of Lorain signed an unprecedented agreement with Brush Wellman in which the company promised never to produce, manufacture or store beryllium at their Lorain facility. The deal resulted from an eight-week door-to-door organizing by Citizen Action, working with Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, and a heated public hearing with 200 Lorain residents.

May 2000: Ohio Citizen Action members distribute Thou Shalt Not Kill, a report to Brush Wellman stockholders, as they arrive for the company's annual meeting.

December 2000: Ohio Citizen Action finds the 'smoking gun': dust samples from homes, automobiles, and restaurants surrounding the Elmore plant. An independent laboratory found that workers had been bringing beryllium dust home with them on their clothes and shoes. This evidence persuaded the nation’s leading public health agency, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, to conduct a health consultation and exposure investigation to determine if, how, and how much people in the community are being exposed to beryllium coming from the plant.

January 2001: Ohio Citizen Action learned that the Boy Scouts of America were selling Eagle Scout rings made with beryllium. After notifying the media, Ohio Citizen Action and people with beryllium disease sent letters to the Boy Scouts urging them to halt the sales of these rings. Within days of national media coverage, the Boy Scouts immediately pulled these rings from their catalogue and notified their supplier that they were not to use beryllium in any of the products they made for the Scouts.

February 2001: Within three days, two accidental fires break out, releasing beryllium into the air, at the Elmore plant. This leads citizens to renew their call for the plant and the federal government to pay for testing of nearby residents to determine whether they have beryllium disease.

February - April 2001: Beryllium is used in dental work to make crowns, dentures, and bridges. Dental health professionals who work with beryllium-containing alloys are in danger of developing beryllium disease if they grind, polish or otherwise create beryllium dust or fumes. Ohio Citizen Action conducted a statewide education campaign on the dangers of beryllium in dentistry, which resulted in hundreds of dentists and dental laboratories promising to not use beryllium containing products in their practice. Our campaign also produced a study, Ban beryllium in dentistry, which attracted good media coverage and prompted an OSHA investigation of four dental laboratory suppliers. Also as a result, OSHA issued a Hazardous Information Bulletin warning dental laboratories of the dangers of beryllium, and recommending that the labs find safer alternatives to the deadly metal.

June 2001: Leaders from Brush Wellman's Cleveland headquarters and Ohio Citizen Action begin a series of meetings.

June 2001: The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry conduct a health consultation in the communities surrounding the Elmore plant. This consultation is in response to a request by Senator Mike DeWine after Citizen Action members wrote him letters. The dust samples, collected by Citizen Action, which tested positive for beryllium were used as evidence in the Health Consultation that residents could be exposed to beryllium coming from the plant.

December 2001: Ohio Citizen Action posted 6,500 pages of internal documents from Brush Wellman and the federal government on the internet with the help of the Environmental Working Group.

January 2002: Ohio Citizen Action sponsored a public forum on beryllium disease, with expert Dr. Kathleen Fagan the speaker. 60 plant neighbors crowded into the Genoa public library to learn more about the dangers from community exposure, possible symptoms, and how to get the necessary medical testing.

April 2002: Ohio Citizen Action Executive Director Sandy Buchanan and Cleveland Area Director Amy Ryder, Brush Chairman Gordon Harnett, and Vice President Dan Skoch flew to Washington D.C. to lobby Senator Mike DeWine and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur on designating funds to further research on beryllium disease. Both lawmakers made a commitment to push for a designation of $1 million to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to research the causes, the prevention, and the treatment of chronic beryllium disease.

July 2002: The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry release the results of their health consultation which finds that community dangers from beryllium exposure are more likely to come from workers taking home beryllium on their clothes rather than exposure through air pollution. The Agency also launches an exposure investigation to determine if and how residents might be exposed to beryllium coming from the Elmore plant. This is the first investigation of its kind in the plant's 60 year history.

August 2002: Peter Kowalski, environmental health scientist at the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, tours the Elmore facility to confirm Brush Wellman’s improvements, including the closing of the pure beryllium unit at the plant, transition zones within the plant, respirator use, decontamination procedures and separate locker rooms for storing work and street clothing.

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