Rare condition possibly misdiagnosed at Bannister

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - There are new concerns at the Bannister Federal Complex that workers with a rare lung condition were misdiagnosed with a disease linked to a toxin used to make parts for nuclear bombs.

“I am saying we need answers,” said Susan Hickman who’s been diagnosed with sarcoidosis. “It is very, very important to so many of us.”

Sarcoidosis creates breathing disorders and causes lumps and other growths in the lungs.

Hickman never worked at Bannister but her mother, a former Bannister worker, died after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“It was a cancerous brain tumor called glioblastoma,” Hickman said.

Her mother Lavelle Monroe worked for the Internal Revenue Service and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service at the Bannister Federal Complex.

Hickman fears her mother may have unknowingly exposed her to a toxin when she came home from work.

“I'm looking for answers, not only for myself, but as well as for my mom and all of those hundreds of other workers out there,” Hickman said.

Doctors diagnosed Hickman with sarcoidosis, but could never explain how she got it.

Among the about 300 sick workers identified by our investigation, we’ve tracked dozens of employees with lung conditions and five other employees with the same diagnosis as Hickman, sarcoidosis.

Sarcoidosis is important because medical websites and experts list sarcoidosis as a possible misdiagnosis of berylliosis and only way to get berylliosis is exposure to beryllium, a toxic metal used at the Bannister Federal Complex on the side where workers make parts for nuclear bombs.

Our investigation has uncovered 79 claims at the Honeywell managed Kansas City Plant linked to beryllium.

“Oh my God, look at how many people they have impacted,” Hickman said. “So it is very important that I get answers.”

She never knew to tell doctors there was beryllium in the building where her mother worked and suspects she was misdiagnosed.

Recent tests on the General Services Administration side of the building where her mother worked detected no beryllium.

According to a Honeywell statement, for 40-years, the Kansas City Plant has provided protection and training for workers at the plant handling beryllium.

Plant officials say areas contaminated with beryllium are contained and don't pose a threat outside those areas.

At town hall meetings scheduled for Tuesday, we’ll be providing scientists from the Centers for Disease Control information we’ve identified about the sarcoidosis cases, along with information about the hundreds of other sick workers identified during our investigation.
The General Services Administration plans separate town halls for current and former workers.

According to a GSA statement scientists from the GSA’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health will collect “health data from current and former employees as part on their on-going study, holding group and one-on-one sessions.”

The meeting for current workers is scheduled for June 1 at 1:30 in the Bannister Federal Complex at 1500 E. Bannister Rd., Kansas City, Missouri.

The town hall for former workers is also June 1 at 6:30 pm, but will be held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 124 at 303 East 103rd Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri.

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