Key documents for Part 1: The Factory

Study notes health effects of lead at lower levels

This study by the National Toxicology Program in 2012 focuses on the health effects of low-level lead, under 10 micrograms per deciliter, in both adults and children. 

Gopher consultants point out problems in the baghouse

This report from a Gopher consultant in 2013 identified several problems in the baghouse area of the plant where toxic dust gets routed from around the plant. Among the issues: leaky filters and corroded bag-shaking systems. 

Gopher consultants find that lead levels were too high

This is a 2017 consultant report that measured the lead exposure levels for workers in the factory. The consultants found that the standard respirators in use at Gopher were not always able to protect workers from high concentrations of lead in the air. This document was provided to a worker who asked the company for air-monitoring records, which he is entitled to under federal rules. It was redacted by Gopher before it was given to the employee. 

Hillsborough County logs the most lead poisonings

This is an excerpt from the Florida Department of Health's morbidity report published in 2014. Hillsborough has the most lead poisoning cases and one of the highest per capita rates in the entire state. The report mentions that Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties have high rates of lead poisoning due to battery and metal recycling plants. (Gopher Resource recycles about 50,000 car batteries a day at its Tampa factory.) 

Experts find health risks from lead below OSHA threshold

This 2007 article from an expert panel explores the health effects of lead in the body at various levels from 5 micrograms per deciliter to over 80 micrograms per deciliter. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows workers to have blood-lead levels up to 60 micrograms per deciliter before they must be removed for their safety. The authors suggest that OSHA should lower its medical removal level to one test at 30 micrograms per deciliter or two consecutive tests at 20. 

National organization urges OSHA to take action

This webpage from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine urges OSHA to update its medical removal level. 

Gopher notifies worker about their overexposure to lead

This is a letter sent by Gopher to an employee who was overexposed at least twice in 2019. At the time, the employee was wearing a respirator that could protect only up to 2,500 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air. This document was redacted by the Times to remove personally identifiable information. 

Doctor’s letter doesn’t warn factory worker of risks

This letter was sent to worker Prospere Dumeus after a check-up with the company’s contracted physician. Dr. Bruce Bohnker is the medical director of a Tampa clinic that Gopher has hired for the past seven years to monitor employee health. In 2016, Bohnker wrote Dumeus a letter describing findings from his exam and noting his history of heart problems. 

Doctor clears Gopher worker to work

This letter was sent to Eric Telemaque after a 2015 check-up. Dr. Bruce Bohnker, the company-contracted physician, notes in the letter that Telemaque's blood pressure was high. Bohnker cleared Telemaque to continue working at Gopher, saying he didn’t have concerns about his work exposures. Less than a year later, Telemaque suffered a stroke. 

Gopher’s baghouse measures high levels of lead in the air

This document shows a handful of air-lead samples taken from the baghouse area of the factory in 2014 and 2015. Two samples exceeded 100,000 micrograms per cubic meter, which is the level that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health considers life-threatening. 

National organization again urges OSHA to act

In this 2016 statement, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine again urges OSHA to update its medical removal standards. The statement notes that the current standard is decades-old and out of touch with modern science demonstrating the health effects of lead at far lower levels. Among the strongest evidence for lowering the medical removal level, the organization said, is increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

We want to talk with you

Do you live in the neighborhoods of Grant Park, Oak Park, Florence Villa, Dixie Farms or Uceta Gardens in Hillsborough County? And do you suffer from these health issues?

  • Heart ailments
  • Kidney disease
  • Infertility
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle weakness
  • Behavioral problems
  • Reduced attention span
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Debilitating headaches

These are among the factors associated with high levels of lead exposure. Please contact us if you are interested in talking.