Peterson & Associates, P.C. currently represents individuals who have developed diseases from exposure to toxic chemicals utilized at the Bannister Federal Complex located on Bannister Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
We have been vigilantly researching issues surrounding the leaking of dangerous toxins in and around the Bannister Complex. Our firm has consulted with a nationally renowned toxicologist to assist in our ongoing investigation into the Bannister Complex and the impact it has had on so many people.
If you have any information or documents that would assist in this investigation, please contact Peterson & Associates, P.C.
Background on the Bannister Complex
The Bannister Federal Complex was constructed in 1942 to build aircraft engines for the Navy. Following WWII, the complex was used for storage until 1949, when the manufacturing of nuclear weapons began.
Ownership of the complex is divided between The U.S General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The NNSA Kansas City Plant portion of the Bannister Federal Complex is operated and managed by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, LLC for the NNSA.
Since 1949, the NNSA’s Kansas City Plant has built non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons. As a result, the complex has evolved into a high-tech research production facility that specializes in science-based manufacturing.
As one of the most secure production facilities in the country, the plant produces non-nuclear mechanical, electronic, and engineered material components for U.S. national defense systems, such as high-energy laser ignition systems, microwave hybrid microcircuit production, and miniature electromechanical devices. The plant also provides technical services, such as metallurgical/mechanical analysis, analytical chemistry, environmental testing, nondestructive testing, computer-based training, simulations and analysis, and technical certification. The Kansas City Plant is the NNSA’s highest-rated production facility.
Office and warehouse space not controlled by NNSA is owned and operated by the GSA. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) once occupied 474,000 square feet in two buildings of the complex but moved into a new facility near Union Station in October 2006. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration occupied 153,000 square feet of space at the complex up until 2009. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has also been removed from the complex, leaving about 300,000 square feet vacant.
Current agencies in the GSA space include GSA’s Regional Office, the Marine Corps, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, Veterans Affairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Federal Protective Service.
Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA)
In the year 2000, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. Congress stated the law was enacted because nuclear weapons production and testing involves unique dangers and acknowledged workers could be harmed by exposure to even small amounts of radiation or beryllium. Congress felt that a large number of nuclear weapons workers at Department of Energy (DOE) sites and their vendor workers had been put at risk without their knowledge or consent.
The EEOICPA was enacted to provide compensation and medical benefits to employees who worked at certain DOE facilities, including contractors and subcontractors at those locations and certain vendors. The Bannister Federal Complex is included in the EEOICP.
What Is Beryllium?
Beryllium is a hard, lightweight metal that is very strong and easy to shape. Beryllium copper alloys and Beryllium oxide ceramics are used in the electronic, nuclear and aerospace industries. Beryllium parts for nuclear weapons, experimental reactors and physics experiments have been manufactured and used at a number of DOE facilities since the 1950s.
The DOE’s strictest health and safety standards, largely developed after 1999, related to exposure to pure beryllium metal, as opposed to a copper-beryllium alloy. The Kansas City plant allegedly never machined pure beryllium. The principal use of beryllium at the Kansas City plant was as an alloy of copper, which contained less than 2% beryllium.
Exposure usually happens when a person breathes in beryllium mists, dusts, and fumes. Beryllium travels to the lungs, where it can cause damage. Beryllium-related granulomas (noncancerous tumors or growths) can also develop in other body tissues. Machinists, welders, and operators may have been exposed through direct handling of beryllium and beryllium compounds. Other workers may have been exposed by performing laboratory analyses on beryllium compounds, coming into contact with contaminated equipment or working near a beryllium operation. Exposure could also occur to spouses and children exposed to workers' clothes if they carried beryllium particles.
Beryllium Health Problems
Beryllium disease primarily affects the lungs. Skin disease with poor wound healing and rash or wart-like bumps can also occur. Exposure to beryllium can cause an immune reaction (sensitization) that can lead to a lung disease known as berylliosis or chronic beryllium disease (CBD). CBD occurs when the immune system mounts an attack against beryllium particles that have entered the body. The lung sacs become inflamed and fill with white blood cells that accumulate around the beryllium particles. The cells form balls around the particles called granulomas. Eventually, the lungs become scarred and lose their ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream.
- Acute beryllium disease is caused primarily by breathing air containing higher levels of beryllium mists, dusts, and fumes. Both acute (abrupt, short-term) and chronic (long-term) health problems can occur. The acute disease starts soon after exposure and resembles pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) takes a long time to develop, usually several years or perhaps even decades. It can develop from much lower levels of exposure than the acute form. In CBD, inflammation and scarring of the lungs make it more difficult for the lungs to get oxygen to the bloodstream and body. A special type of scarring called granuloma is very typical of this disease. These non-cancerous growths look like scars or tumors present in another disease called sarcoidosis. The inflammation leads to a build-up of abnormal tissue called granulomas. If the inflammation persists, scar tissue can permanently damage the lung.
CBD can be mild or severe. For some, it can be a relatively minor condition, while for others, it can become a very serious, disabling disease. Even exposure to very small amounts of beryllium can cause some people to become sensitive (called sensitization or sensitivity) to the metal. There is currently no cure for CBD, but it can be treated with medications that reduce inflammation and the build-up of scar tissue.
Beryllium is identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a cancer-causing substance based on convincing evidence in laboratory animals and suggestive evidence in humans. Based on animal studies and studies of workers, The Department of Health and Human Services has also determined that beryllium and certain beryllium compounds are carcinogenetic. Among beryllium production plant workers, studies have found a significant increase in the incidence rate of lung cancers.
Testing and Diagnosis
Certain individuals appear to be more susceptible to developing CBD than others. Individuals who have a particular genetic “marker”— the “Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) – DPB1 Allele”—seem to recognize beryllium in the lungs as an antigen. Exposure to beryllium can cause an immune reaction (sensitization) that can lead to lung disease. This immune reaction is called “beryllium Sensitization (BeS).” It is not known with certainty what being sensitized alone means. It is estimated that 10-40% of the population has the HLA genetic marker.
The most common test for sensitization is the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT). The primary purpose of the test is to determine if you have been exposed to beryllium, with or without your knowledge, and determine if you have become sensitized to beryllium. The test examines disease-fighting blood cells normally found in the body, called lymphocytes. Beryllium and other test agents are added to small groups of these lymphocytes. If the lymphocytes react to beryllium in a specific way, the test results are deemed abnormal, meaning you have developed BeS.
BeS by itself causes no abnormal lung function and requires no treatment (i.e., it is asymptomatic). Studies have shown, however, that BeS is an early sign of CBD in many individuals.
If you have been exposed to beryllium, it is important that you be tested by qualified medical providers to determine if you may be susceptible to developing CBD or to determine if you may already have developed CBD, so appropriate medical treatment can be obtained.
Support for Those Who May Have Been Exposed
To fully support our clients and provide them with the most up-to-date information, we have a staff dedicated to the Bannister Federal Complex environmental litigation. If you would like to speak with our law firm at no charge to discuss the status of our investigation, to help us with our investigation, or to better understand your rights, contact us for immediate assistance.