| Article published Thursday, August 8, 2002|
Brush workers’ homes to be tested
Feds ask if beryllium escapes from
By KELLY LECKER
ELMORE - A federal public health agency plans
to test the homes of beryllium workers to see if beryllium is
leaving the Brush Wellman plant.
The Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry told residents at meetings yesterday
that air emissions from the Brush Wellman plant are not posing a
health hazard for neighbors. The agency, part of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, has been studying concerns of
residents about beryllium exposure for the past year.
of beryllium leaving the plant by air were within federal standards,
based on 30-day averages from air monitors near the
There were incidents where the air level was higher
than the federal standard, including a barrel fire in February,
2001. The health impact of those isolated events cannot be
determined, said ATSDR environmental health scientist Peter Kowalski
"The risk of disease is probably very low, but it’s not
quantifiable," he said.
Brush Wellman was not in violation of
Environmental Protection Agency standards during the events, because
the EPA regulations only provide limits for 30-day averages of
beryllium in the air; over a month the average amount of beryllium
in the air was still within guidelines. There is no limit for the
level of beryllium in the air on a single day, said Mike Czeczele of
the Ohio EPA.
But the toxic substances agency could not
determine whether beryllium is getting into workers’ homes from
their clothes or bodies. The agency is developing tests to look for
beryllium in homes.
Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal
used in the defense, automotive, and electronics industries. It is
used to make, among other things, nuclear bombs. Beryllium dust can
cause chronic and sometimes fatal lung disease for those who inhale
it. More than 1,200 people nationwide, including former and current
workers at Brush Wellman, have contracted beryllium disease since
As a result of the agency’s health study, some
changes have been made by the Ohio EPA in testing for beryllium and
other materials. In January, the EPA started testing from its own
air monitor at the plant in response to residents’ concerns that
only Brush Wellman was taking air samples. The levels from that air
monitor have been within federal standards, Mr. Czeczele
The agency has tested wells for chlorinated solvents
that are found on the plant site. These solvents have not been found
in private wells, but Mr. Czeczele said the EPA will continue to
test wells in case that changes.
The agency recommended that
Brush Wellman work harder to communicate with people who live near
the plant and said that it should notify the Ohio EPA when there is
any potential for beryllium to leave the site. Regulations required
only that the plant notify the state when a large amount of
beryllium leaves the plant.
Mr. Czeczele of the EPA said
Brush Wellman has contacted his agency when beryllium might be
leaving the plant. He cautioned residents that measuring air levels
of beryllium in those cases is difficult at best. "If it’s an air
release, it’s probably going to be gone. Air is one of the hardest
things to look at," he said.
Loren Sampson, a 42-year Brush
Wellman employee, said he is concerned about companies in the area
that contract with Brush Wellman and bring beryllium into their
"They don’t have the resources" to protect
workers against beryllium disease, he said.
Mr. Kowalski said
his agency recommended these companies, commonly called "downstream"
beryllium users, get safety information and contact the National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which will evaluate
possible hazards to workers.
Bernadette Eriksen, who lives
near the plant, asked the agency to do its own testing and not rely
on data from Brush Wellman and the EPA. Mr. Kowalski said the agency
will test workers’ homes but will not do its own air sampling and
well testing because it is in Atlanta.