KANSAS CITY, Mo. – NBC Action News
continues its Bannister Investigation with two men diagnosed with a
rare condition associated with a toxin used at the Kansas City
Both men say they never worked inside the plant’s labs,
and both claim they have been diagnosed with
Chris Heintzman was a delivery man for a metro lumber yard
who says his exposure to the plant was limited to the delivery dock
area of the plant.
The other beryllium sensitivity victim, Marlin Smith, was a
roofer who says he worked on the plant’s roof for several
months in 2005.
The men showed NBC Action News documents from doctors and
government programs supporting claims of their condition.
Smith claims he was never inside the plant’s offices
for more than an hour.
Beryllium sensitivity is caused by exposure to beryllium, a
toxic metal that is combined with other metals to strengthen
materials used in aerospace manufacturing according to officials
with the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Kansas
Officials say the Kansas City Plant at the Bannister Federal
Complex, 1500 E. Bannister Road, uses small amounts of beryllium to
manufacture non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons.
During our initial investigation, plant safety officer
Patrick Hopes acknowledged areas of beryllium contamination at the
plant, but said the areas are safely contained and do not threaten
anyone outside those areas.
Hoopes said workers inside those areas are trained to use
safety precautions to avoid exposure.
Our initial investigation uncovered 79 Bannister workers with
health concerns linked to beryllium according to a statement from
According to a
Department of Energy statement
on beryllium, exposure can
escalate into Chronic Beryllium Disease.
The DOE statement says one study suggests a significant
increase in lung cancer among beryllium workers.
The statement identifies symptoms as coughing, chest pain,
fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Sherry Kinsey-Cannon with the NNSA at the Kansas City Plant
says 12 current employees at the Kansas City Plant have been
diagnosed with Chronic Beryllium Disease.
The NNSA has not yet responded to NBC Action News inquiries
about the newest worker claims that they were exposed outside of
the plant’s labs.
The men contacted NBC Action News independently after our
Bannister Investigation series last week which uncovered dozens of
illnesses at a building that abuts the plant at the Bannister
We are developing this story and awaiting a response from the
Stay with NBC Action News and NBCActionNews.com for updates
to this developing story.