Letters from the week of December 3

Feature: “Kansas City’s Nuclear Fallout,” November 19

Toxic Shock

I worked at the Bendix plant as a machinist from 1981 until I was laid off in 1986 and again from 1988 until I was laid off again. While we were in training in 1981, a bunch of beryllium copper somehow got into the stock that we were using to make our own tools. When my boss recognized what we were using to make our hammers, he immediately had it removed. But it was too late. Several of us had already machined the material without any kind of protective procedures. I was also asked to sign a document saying I had been told that a potting material we used for strengthening thin walls for machining was possibly dangerous to my health. Then, while working in heavy machining, they discovered radioactive material in a drain in the area where we set up our tooling. The area was cordoned off while they cleaned it out, and we were told it wasn’t enough to hurt us.

In my reading on the subject of beryllium, I found that by carrying it home on my clothing and shoes, I could have exposed my family or anyone with whom I came into contact. My father has had to have a kidney removed due to cancer, and he has a spot on his lung for which he is now being treated. He has chronic bronchitis. I have had chronic health problems that I think may be a result of the toxic materials I have been exposed to.

To be honest, every factory that I ever worked in had some type of material that was hazardous to my health. It is no wonder that there are so many health problems in our population. Many are blamed on smoking — but smoking is the least of the culprits, in my opinion.

Gayla McDowell
Yellville, Arkansas

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