In response to Public Citizen’s January request to disclose information about workers’ exposure to beryllium, six major coal slag manufacturers are updating their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and providing workers with more information about this toxic metal.
Coal slag is used to make roofing and flooring products as well as abrasives used to remove paint and rust. According to Public Citizen, those who work with coal slag abrasive are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of beryllium, which can result in chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer. Even short-term exposure at low levels can be dangerous, Public Citizen said.
“Workers have a right to know what could seriously harm them in the workplace,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.
According to federal law, manufacturers are required to tell workers about a hazardous substance if a mixture they are working with contains the toxicant at levels that “could be released in concentrations which would exceed an established OSHA permissible exposure limit.”
Public Citizen discovered in January that coal slag manufacturers were failing to properly disclose the toxic contents of beryllium hazards on their MSDSs. As a result, Public Citizen sent a letter to Thomas Galassi, directorate of enforcement programs at OSHA, requesting that the current regulation be enforced.
Since Public Citizen’s letter, six of the eight major coal slag companies – Harsco Corp., Abrasives Inc., American Industrial Minerals, ATI Black Diamond, Mobile Abrasives Inc. and Opta Minerals Inc. – have updated and listed beryllium on their MSDSs.
Two major manufacturers of coal slag, Ensio Inc. and U.S. Minerals, have failed to comply, according to Public Citizen.