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Harshaw Chemical

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Location: 1000 Harvard Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44109

Founded by: William A. Harshaw in 1892

Harshaw Chemical as it appears today [USA Today]
Harshaw Chemical as it appears today [USA Today]
Harshaw was located on a forty acre site on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River at Harvard Avenue. It appeared to be a major polluter of the river, which would often appear a milky white. The banks would sometimes be a bright yellow.
Aside from the usual chemicals, Harshaw was also processing radioactive materials from August 1942 to 1955. The bright yellow riverbank may have been the tailings from the manufacturing process. Yellowcake is a concentrated form of uranium oxide and as the name suggests, it is bright yellow in color. It seems hard to believe that they would have dumped the radioactive minerals that cavalierly into the river, so it is probably more likely that it was some other chemical they manufactered. Nevertheless, no matter what it was, it probably wasn't healthy for the river, fish, and wildlife, not to mention people. The following link seems to support the idea that it was actually Yellowcake on the riverbank.
The next link is a CDC report on employee exposure to radioactivity.
They were providing feed material, for the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee, in the form of Uranium hexafluoride. As early as October of 1942, they were producing 700 pounds per day. Some of this material was used to produce the "Little Boy" atom bomb that bombed Hiroshima. Between 1942 and 1953, Harshaw released approximately 4,000 pounds of radioactive uranium-fluoride particles annually.

IEER's study also found evidence that plant authorities and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which contracted with these private companies to process material for its nuclear weapons program, were aware that workers at these plants were being overexposed over prolonged periods of time. Furthermore, there is no indication that the authorities shared this overexposure information with the plant workers. In fact, there are documents that indicate that plant authorities and AEC personnel lied to the workers about the levels of radiation to which they were being exposed. For example, in a January 1948 letter to the Vice President of Harshaw Chemical Co., Harshaw's Medical Manager wrote: "...it is obvious that concentrations considerably above the preferred level are common in Area C." (Area C is an area in the Harshaw plant.) He also wrote, "…a distinct hazard does exist in Area C." In the same letter he states that the Medical office "still believes" that the "logical method of approach" is to continue telling the employees at Area C "that all of our records indicated that no unusual hazard existed …"


A cohort mortality study showed significant excesses of respiratory cancer and melanoma. 92% of those (28) dying of respiratory cancer during 1950-78 had potential exposure before or between 1950-52. Exposures included uranium fluoride for work supporting the Manhattan Project. Some of the hazards are already known or suspected.

EPA article

The news of this was probably a complete surprise to nearby residents in the St. Barbara's Church parish. It's likely that even employees of the plant, who did not have the proper clearance, were aware of what was going on in some portions of the plant. If radioactive emissions were affecting the neighborhoods up the hill from the plant, it might be the cause for the children known to have had, and died from, Leukemia. (Andrew Minich and James Wodzisz)
Known employees from the neighborhood were Andrew Minich (father of the above Andrew), Stanley Zastawny, and Raymond Kapusta.

My husband's uncle, Raymond Kapusta, never once even alluded to something like this.
--Sandy 09:46, 2 March 2007 (PST) Sandra Rozhon

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