WTNH– During the Cold War, the United States relied on a spy satellite for intelligence about other countries.
That satellite, the Hexagon KH-9 was built in Danbury at the former Perkin-Elmer facility.
“We looked at China and Russia and other places to see whether they were cheating on treaties, increasing their missile sites, silos, whatever,” said former engineer Phil Pressel.
In 2011, the program was declassified. The National Reconnaissance Office released thousands of photographs taken by the satellite and of its production.
It was not a year later, however, that one engineer claimed chemical-related illnesses stemming from that satellite.
Oscar Berendshon worked at the Danbury facility for 22 years. He built 20 satellites that were put into orbit. In 2012, he was diagnosed with Berylliosis. It is a lung disease associated with exposure to Beryllium. That metal was used as coating on the satellite parts.
“The parts were not as clean as they were supposed to have been,” claimed Berendshon.
Berendshon had tests done by three independent labs in three different states. His disease, he would come to find out, was linked to that metal.
“For at least the last 12 years I’ve experienced I’ve had a continuous problem breathing,” said Berendshon.
Doctors call it a “straightforward case of beryllium induced pulmonary fibrosis”.
Berendshon is now going after the company that purchased the former Perkin-Elmer facility, United Technologies Corporation.
“This is a classic occupational disease,” said David Morrissey, the attorney hired by Berendshon.
Together, they are trying to get reimbursed for medical expenses Berendshon has been paying for years… on his own, but Berenshon wants to take it a step further.
“What I would like to see is an official investigation on how in the world it was possible to expose a thousand people,” he said.
According to state workplace safety records, this is the only known case of beryllium exposure associated with the Perkin-Elmer facility.