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Ohio News

U.S. probes beryllium plant as health risk

06/29/01

ELMORE - Federal investigators are interviewing neighbors and officials of a beryllium plant this week to try to determine if the metal is making residents sick.

Investigators from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also talked with an environmental group that says it found beryllium dust outside the Brush Wellman plant and in the homes of workers.

The Cleveland-based company processes beryllium, a metal long used in nuclear weapons and in cars, cell phones, computers and golf clubs. Beryllium dust, when inhaled, can cause a fatal lung disease.

About 1,200 people nationwide have contracted beryllium disease since the 1940s, including current and former workers at the Brush Wellman plant near Elmore, about 20 miles south of Toledo.

The company is confident that the study will find there is no danger, said spokesman Patrick Carpenter.

Peter Kowalski said he and the other health investigators are at the plant to gather information and have not made any recommendations.

"We're concerned," he said. "We understand this is a disease that has caused a great deal of tragedy and it's still occurring."

The investigators want to know whether people living near the beryllium plant face harmful exposure from the plant's air emissions and whether people were exposed to beryllium carried off the site on workers' clothing.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, requested the investigation in January. A final report isn't expected for several months.

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