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Letter to the Plain Dealer on Brush Wellman,
May 9, 2000
Re: Your article, Sunday, May 7, 2000, Brush Wellman looks on bright side of a deadly metal
My late husband, Frank Morchak, started with Brush Beryllium in late 1958. After 3 to 6 months in the powdering and cintering department (grinding the beryllium ore finer than face powder) he developed rashes and colds that eventually became bronchitis. He questioned the possibility of an exposure problem to beryllium, but was assured all precautions had been taken; work clothes provided, showers, etc.
Early in 1960 he had several spontaneous pneumorthorax episodes (lung collapses) and after a painful biopsy, was diagnosed with Chronic Beryllium Disease. This was the beginning of 20 years of an illness that slowly and painfully smothered him to death.
He was treated at the Cleveland Clinic, Pulmonary Department until his death 6/16/80. He had so many symptoms; he was a classic case of Chronic Beryllium Disease. There were always medical students from Case Western Reserve interviewing, examining, and studying him.
He was retired on Social Security Disability at the age of 38 and lived for 10 years. He spent the last 5 years of his life literally chained to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. Toward the end of his life it was a rarity for him to be home because he was hospitalized most of the time.
Interestingly enough, there is never any mention of the former plant in which my husband worked. Brush Beryllium had a plant on Perkins Avenue in Cleveland. This building was torn down years ago. What about the people who worked there and the surrounding community, how have those people fared?
I find it outrageous that new cases of Chronic Beryllium Disease are being diagnosed 40 years later.
Somehow I fail to see the "bright side of beryllium" and neither can the workers and the families who are going through the same kind of hell my husband, my sons and I went through for so many years.