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Ohio Citizen Action asks Gore:
For Release: July 28, 1999
Contact: Amy Ryder (216) 861-5200
CLEVELAND –- When Vice President Albert Gore visits Cleveland tomorrow, he will need to bring some answers with him. Ohio Citizen Action will be asking him about the federal government’s secret 1979 deal with Cleveland-based Brush Wellman, which left beryllium workers exposed to dangerous levels of toxic dust (Other questions).
As part of the deal, uncovered by the Toledo Blade, Brush Wellman agreed to stay in the beryllium business, and the Defense and Energy Departments agreed to keep the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from strengthening beryllium exposure safety standards.
At the time, OSHA had been moving to cut the permissible exposure levels in half, but after the deal the proposal was shelved. Today, the levels remain where they were originally set in 1949.
"OSHA remains silent on beryllium, twenty years after the secret deal, six and a half of which have gone by on Mr. Gore’s watch," said Amy Ryder, Cleveland program director for Ohio Citizen Action. "The beryllium dust has been busy, however, continuing to give workers an incurable, often fatal, disease."
OSHA’s April 1999 Semiannual Agenda of Regulation lists occupational beryllium exposure as an agenda item, but with a timetable for action "to be determined."
Ryder said the administration should immediately strengthen the beryllium exposure standard to the level recommended by OSHA in 1979, and take action against Brush Wellman for its repeated violations of even the weaker official standard.
On July 16, President Bill Clinton announced his proposed bill to reimburse certain medical costs and lost wages for workers with beryllium disease.
"Clinton’s step, while welcome, misses the point," said Ryder. "The policies of the Clinton/Gore administration are still making people sick, even as he hands out money to people made sick in the past. This is what Vice President Gore must answer: Why is the fix still in?"