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>> Five or ten years ago, I started noticing shortness of breath, and that started getting a little worse.>> Alan Harville, a former shipyard worker, is one of many who suffer from mysterious ailments after years of maintenance work on Navy ships. Occupational health experts say their symptoms may be linked to beryllium, a toxic, carcinogenic element found in coal dust.
Which is often used as an abrasive to clean the hulls of sea vessels.>> My stamina just ain't there. It just kind of raised a red flag.>> Harville's story and others like it are at the heart of a little known regulatory drama unfolding under President Donald Trump.
>> So this is what we have now.>> His administration has been moving to roll back worker safety rules that it says are a burden to business, including the rules governing exposure to beryllium. Julia Hart went to investigate at the Newport News shipyard.>> The workers I spoke to who believed that they may be suffering from beryllium disease had experienced fatigue, weight loss, night sweats.
>> When inhaled, beryllium cause lung cancer and berylliosis, a debilitating and sometimes deadly respiratory illness.>> Beryllium disease is not something that can just show up on a routine doctor's exam. You have to get a specialized blood test, which only a few laboratories in the country offer. Because it's so difficult to detect, there are very few cases of it actually known in the construction and shipyard industries.
But this absence of known detected cases is also the argument that industry uses to say, we shouldn't have to pay more money to protect our workers from this.>> But Harville, also a union leader, persisted.>> I did a lot of research, both here and at home. The only good exposure to beryllium is no exposure.
>> Newport News Shipbuilding in 2017 said it had stopped using coal on ship hulls while it studied the effects of beryllium, according to local reports. The Obama administration had tightened the rules around beryllium in its final days, but within weeks of his election, Trump moved to dismantle key parts of that federal rule.
>> Ending excessive regulation.>> And, in June, announced plans to put the brakes on other provisions, in areas such as air quality testing and monitoring employee health.>> A 2016 study by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration found stricter rules could save lives. But they come with a hefty price tag to industry.
>> Thank you all.>> The Trump administration's plan to reverse parts of the beryllium rule is scheduled to take effect in June.