electric competition
pollution prevention

The smoking gun:
Citizen Action finds beryllium in Brush Wellman workers’ homes;
Renews demand for community testing

For immediate release: December 14, 2000

Sarah Ogdahl (419) 866-9093, 346-1707 (cell)
Dr. Kathy Fagan (440)366-5577 (w)
Rev. Keith Davis (419)862-2255 (h)

ELMORE, OHIO -— Ohio Citizen Action found Beryllium contamination in carpet and inside automobiles owned by Brush Wellman workers and on an auto owned by a resident living across the street from the Brush Wellman plant in Elmore, Ohio. Six of the participants have worked inside the plant in the last three years. The testing found that five of these individuals have beryllium in their homes. The group also tested three autos belonging to workers and beryllium was found in all three samples.

"We found the smoking gun. These results show that beryllium is leaving the Brush Wellman plant and entering people’s homes," said Sarah Ogdahl of Ohio Citizen Action. "An independent exposure study is needed in the homes of workers and residents immediately."

The samples were collected in October and November from residential homes in the vicinity of the Brush Wellman Elmore plant and from workers’ homes and automobiles. Samples were taken from vacuum cleaners and swipe samples were taken from workers’ cars, residential homes, and a resident’s car. The samples were then sent to Severn Trent Laboratories in North Billerica, Massachusetts for analysis. The results are as follows:
See also a complete chart of results (.doc)

  • Twelve individuals participated in the sampling. Six of the twelve participants were employed by Brush Wellman within the past three years.
  • A total of twenty-two samples were taken from inside and outside of homes and automobiles in the vicinity of the Elmore plant.
  • Of the six workers’ homes sampled, five had beryllium contamination in their carpet or vacuum.
  • Of the three cars owned by workers that were tested, all three had beryllium contamination present.
  • A swipe sample taken from the hood of a car belonging to a resident living across the street from the beryllium plant tested positive for beryllium contamination.

Citizens living in the Oak Harbor- Elmore area and members of Ohio Citizen Action have asked Brush Wellman, the Ohio Health Department, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and US Representative Marcy Kaptur to either provide or secure funding for blood tests to determine if people living near the plant have been exposed to beryllium dust. To date, the company and these government agencies have refused to comply.

On December 13, similar requests were made to Senator Mike DeWine, Senator George Voinovich, US Representative Paul Gillmore, and Representative Kaptur in light of the recent tests results. These requests specifically asked for an independent study of the homes of Brush Wellman workers as well as residents living near the plant to determine routes of beryllium exposure and the level of risk to public health.

"We had to do the testing ourselves to find if this deadly metal was in our homes," remarked Reverend Keith Davis, a resident of Elmore who lives across the street from the plant. "People have to know if this is in their homes. It isn’t just the workers who are in danger from beryllium exposure."

When inhaled or through contact with the skin, beryllium dust can cause beryllium disease, an incurable and often fatal lung ailment. The Environmental Protection Agency’s airborne standard for beryllium is .01 micrograms per cubic meter of air. There is no standard for beryllium contamination of carpet or other surfaces.

"There is no safe level of beryllium exposure," said Dr. Kathleen Fagan, occupational health specialist. "If beryllium is being found in people’s cars and homes, it is likely that the community is being exposed." Dr. Fagan testified at a public hearing in Lorain, Ohio earlier this year, urging the City Council to keep their community beryllium-free.

In Lorain, Ohio in the late 1940’s, at least 20 residents contracted beryllium disease from air pollution at the former Brush Wellman Lorain plant.

Ohio Citizen Action is the state’s largest environmental and consumer organization, with 150,000 members statewide.