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Published: Wednesday, 4/19/2000

Blade series inspires '20/20' show tonight

ABC Television's 20/20 news show will broadcast a story tonight about the deadly metal beryllium, which has killed or harmed dozens of Toledo-area workers. The segment is based on a six-part investigative series by The Blade last year.

"It's a very important story,'' ABC producer Jeff Diamond said. "A lot of individuals have become severely sick.''

The 16-minute segment will air during the 10 p.m. show, which will be broadcast on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and feature local beryllium victim Gary Renwand, Blade senior writer Sam Roe, and Dr. David Deubner of beryllium producer Brush Wellman Inc.

The show will detail the hazards of beryllium and how the U.S. government and the beryllium industry have been lax in addressing the risks, Mr. Diamond said.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in nuclear bombs. The metal's dust can cause a chronic, incurable lung disease. About 1,200 people have contracted the illness nationwide since the 1940s, including at least 75 current or former workers at the Brush Wellman plant near Elmore.

Mr. Renwand, 62, of Oak Harbor, contracted beryllium disease at the plant and now can breathe only with the aid of an oxygen tank. "I want everybody to be aware of what is going on,'' he said.

Despite recent publicity about the dangers of beryllium, many local people don't seem concerned, he said. "Maybe something like this [show] will really open their eyes.''

Last year, The Blade documented a 50-year pattern of misconduct by the federal government and the beryllium industry - wrongdoing that caused the injuries and deaths of dozens of workers. Among the findings: Government and industry officials knowingly allowed workers to be exposed to unsafe levels of beryllium dust.

The Blade series has sparked major safety reforms, numerous lawsuits, and two congressional investigations.

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