Recapping the Times’ findings
Tampa Bay Times journalists spent 18 months investigating what happens at Florida’s lone lead factory, owned by Gopher Resource.
The main findings:
- Gopher exposed workers for years to air levels of lead hundreds of times higher than the federal limit.
- Eight out of 10 workers from 2014 to 2018 had enough lead in their blood to put them at risk of increased blood pressure, kidney dysfunction or cardiovascular disease.
- Gopher knew the factory had too much lead dust, but the company moved slowly to fix faulty equipment and disabled ventilation equipment that captured fumes. Workers were left vulnerable, wearing respirators that couldn’t protect them when poison levels spiked.
- Federal rules required that Gopher provide regular checkups, but the company-contracted doctor didn’t tell workers their blood-lead levels put them in danger.
- Gopher rewarded workers who could keep their blood-lead levels down and punished those who couldn’t.
- Dust from the plant has been the suspected cause of lead exposure in at least 16 children — the sons and daughters of employees who unwittingly carried the poison home.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hasn’t inspected the factory for lead-related issues since 2014 and has missed problems in previous visits.
Read the rest of Poisoned at tampabay.com/poisoned
Please support investigative journalism
Projects like Poisoned are important and expensive. More than 25 journalists participated in our lead reporting initiative at the Tampa Bay Times over the past two years.
You can support investigative reporting at the Tampa Bay Times by contributing to our Tampa Bay Times Investigative Fund.
We have established a goal of raising enough money from the community to support our watchdog reporting team in our newsroom. The costs would cover salaries and benefits for one editor and four reporters, as well as health benefits, legal expenses, travel and reporting costs. That amounts to about $500,000 a year. Our goal to start is to raise two years’ worth of funds — or $1 million — to sustain our investigative reporting operation through 2022.
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You also can donate by check, made out to the Poynter Institute, our nonprofit owner. Please put the name of the fund, “Tampa Bay Times Investigative Fund,” in the check’s subject line.
Tampa Bay Times Investigative Fund
C/O Poynter Institute, 801 Third St. S,
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
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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
- 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.