12 Contract Lung Disease After Working With Beryllium

From Associated Press

Twelve people who were exposed to the metal beryllium while working at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant have contracted a deadly lung disease, an Energy Department study obtained by a newspaper says.

Eight current Rocky Flats workers and four retired employees tested positive for berylliosis, the Denver Post reported in Sunday editions.

They were among more than 750 employees at the federal complex 16 miles northwest of Denver who have handled beryllium, a metal used in the manufacture of plutonium triggers. So far, diagnostic tests have been given to 391 of those workers.

No deaths have been reported, but the incurable disease usually proves fatal to 30% of those who contract it, doctors said.

The disease was discovered during a study of Rocky Flats financed by the Energy Department and the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers say it is the biggest work force study of berylliosis to date and is scheduled to be completed in 1993.

An estimated 800,000 American workers have been exposed to beryllium dust in 93,000 private and government plants across the nation. At Rocky Flats, the Energy Department has spent $2 million in the past four years on a program to improve safety conditions.

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