Neighbors Also Suffer From Beryllium Ailments

Neighbors Also Suffer From Beryllium Ailments

Posted By Golomb & Honik || 14-Feb-2000

One person has sued and class action litigation has been planned after numerous individuals were diagnosed with beryllium disease just by living in proximity to a Tuckerton processing facility.

Since 1950, one plaintiff had lived approximately half a mile from the beryllium processing facility, which is now owned by NGK Metals Corp. after a number of ownership changes. One year ago, she was diagnosed with beryllium disease, and she and her husband are now suing NGK and its predecessors for damages in Philadelphia’s Eastern United States District Court.

The woman’s illness suggests that regardless of the precautions the facility did or did not take over the years, toxic beryllium dust somehow still escaped the facility and poisoned the air of the surrounding neighborhoods. Her lawsuit, which is currently being prepared, seeks a testing program for nearby residents who never worked in the plant.

In a 1959 study funded by the National Institutes of Health, more cases of beryllium disease were discovered among residents of neighborhoods near plants than among plant workers. An earlier study published two years previously showed that out of 20 individuals with the disease, 20 percent worked in the plant, 25 percent had contact with the contaminated clothing of workers, 10 percent lived in the immediate neighborhood, and the remaining 45 percent lived four or more miles away from the plant. This study suggests that the contamination was widespread.

Air samples taken from twenty sites throughout the Tuckerton/Muhlenberg Township area revealed that concentrations of beryllium in the air were higher than the government’s recommended limit on many occasions. It is not known how many cases of beryllium disease have been uncovered since these studies were completed.

Golomb & Honik, P.C. is representing the family of the first plaintiff to sue. Attorney Ruben Honik has said that the firm has so far found numerous cases of beryllium disease in the neighborhood surrounding the facility and is planning a class action lawsuit. The goal of the lawsuit would be to establish a monitoring program to help people in the Muhlenberg Township area who may contract or who have already contracted the condition.

Other individuals with the disease are being identified all over the country, mainly because of the lack of industrial hygiene between the 1940s and the 1970s.

“Particulate matter that used to come out from these plants changed when they tightened hygiene through things like stack emissions, the way they sealed in the factory, changes in the ways workers would be required to shower and change clothes at the facility. By the 80’s”, Honik said, "most plants realized the airborne risks and began to improve hygiene. You may not see many cases in 20 years, but we're now seeing the results of poor hygiene of the past."

Honik said that due to a large number of industrial and medical studies conducted during the last 40 years on the effects of beryllium, there is now no doubt that a person soes not have to work in a beryllium factory to contract beryllium disease.

Need legal representation? Call us at Golomb & Honik, P.C. at (215) 278-4449.

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