Lack of industry push killed promising
screen for beryllium sensitivity
A physician testified
Friday that he was on the verge of developing a reliable
screening test for beryllium sensitivity in the early
'70s, but industry showed no interest in funding his
Dr. Sharad Deodhar testified in the Jefferson County
trial of a lawsuit against beryllium supplier Brush
Wellman Inc. of Cleveland by four workers now suffering
a debilitating chronic lung disease. The workers are
among more than 50 workers at the Rocky Flats nuclear
weapons plant who sued Brush Wellman over devastating
lung disease blamed on breathing beryllium dust.
Deodhar said he developed a test in 1973 that showed
that the white cells in some people reacted to
beryllium, indicating a likelihood that they would later
develop chronic beryllium disease if exposed to even
very small amounts.
The test, however, needed to be perfected because it
showed some false positives and 30 percent of persons
with beryllium disease tested negative.
"We felt it should be developed as a screening test,"
Deodhar said. "We felt the major push should have come
from industry but it didn't happen."
Deodhar's work eventually ceased and the test wasn't
perfected for years, after others took up the research.
The test is now used to screen workers susceptible to
developing beryllium disease.
In other testimony, jurors were read the deposition
of former Brush safety and environmental control manager
Philip Wilson, who said he believed the government
standard for beryllium exposure was safe for all
workers. Wilson worked for Brush from 1965 to 1989.
He said he didn't know about workers, including
office workers with minimal exposure to beryllium, who
had gotten sick from levels well below the government
"I thought the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission)
standard was a safe standard and had a safety factor
built into it," he said. "My understanding was that the
The trial, expected to last five more weeks, resumes