Lawsuit testimony indicates scientific
research was lacking
beryllium workers were told they were safe working in
less than 2 micrograms of the metal per cubic meter of
air -- even though there was no scientific research to
back that up.
That was the initial testimony in a trial in
Jefferson County Tuesday, where about 50 workers from
the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant are suing Brush
Wellman Inc. of Cleveland for allegedly conspiring with
the government to hide the harmful effects of beryllium.
Breathing beryllium dust can cause chronic beryllium
disease, a wasting, generally fatal lung ailment, the
court was told.
Retired Brush Wellman executive Martin Powers
testified by videotape that the 2-microgram standard was
only "a guess."
Powers was responsible for monitoring safety in the
Brush factories and for writing warnings to customers.
Power said the only evidence for the 2-microgram
standard was the fact that after it was adopted in 1949,
"the disease appeared to have disappeared."
But under questioning, Powers admitted that some
Brush Wellman employees continued to succumb to chronic
beryllium disease. He said some were exposed to more
than 2 micrograms in accidents.
The plaintiffs' attorneys presented Atomic Energy
Commission documents to the jury dating to 1946 --
classified as secret for decades -- in which officials
worried about possible damage to beryllium production
that could be caused by publicity about beryllium
illness. Because the AEC needed beryllium to make
nuclear bombs, "the AEC appears stuck with the public
relations problem," the document said.
Another once-secret AEC document said that before any
document was declassified, information that would
support claims for beryllium disease damage should be
A Brush attorney responded that Brush had no
knowledge of these secret documents, and pointed to
another 1947 letter in which the company suggested that
the U.S. Public Health Service research beryllium's