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
“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.