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February 16, 2001
  NBC 24 Homepage

Living in Fear
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Just one day after a toxic cloud was released from the Brush Wellman plant in Elmore, local residents gathered together looking for answers. Thursday morning, a chemical reaction in a 55-gallon drum released a cloud of smoke containing the toxic element beryllium. Exposure to beryllium has been linked to Chronic Beryllium Disease, an often fatal ailment.

About 25 neighbors gathered in fear in Bernadette Eriksen's front yard Friday morning. "I think they are slowly killing us. Something has got to be done!" Eriksen says. Tom King agrees, "Everybody lives in a death zone! Somebody's got to put pressure on somebody."

After Thursday's accident, these neighbors want to know exactly how much beryllium is coming from Brush Wellman. However, Brush Wellman says no one is at risk. Brush Wellman Communications Manager Larry Chako says, "In terms of a health risk, there have been no non-occupational cases of Beryllium Disease reported. We already test the air. There is no need for more tests".

But Ohio Citizen Action says Thursday's accident is proof that more needs to be done. "It proves we need more testing. We need to test the nearby homes. We need blood tests for beryllium exposure," Sarah Ogdahl, from Ohio Citizen Action, says. Robert Szilagyi worked at Brush Wellman for 15 years and has Chronic Beryllium Disease. He says there's no way anyone could tell they were being exposed. "There was a stupid comment made Thursday that no one had gotten it. But it takes years to be diagnosed," Szilagyi says.

Ohio Citizen Action says they have thousands of signatures asking for more testing on the area. Bernadette Eriksen believes testing may be their only hope. " I think we're out of our minds to live here, but who's going to buy our house? We have no place else to go."


By: Gretchen Auker


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