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The former View-Master factory in Beaverton, Oregon, was a toxic waste site where workers were unknowingly exposed to excessive levels of the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen. At the factory, which closed in the 1980s, it is estimated that up to 25,000 workers were exposed to dangerous levels of TCE via the factory's drinking water, which was drawn from a well on-site.
History The View-Master, a device for viewing 3-D images (also known as stereo images) on a paper disk, was invented in 1939 by William Gruber, a Portland, Oregon photographer. A business arrangement was made, and the devices came to be manufactured by Sawyer's, Inc. In 1951, Sawyer's opened a factory in Progress, Oregon (now part of Beaverton), to manufacture the devices. The devices were manufactured at the factory in Beaverton well into the 1980s, when production was shifted elsewhere and portions of the factory sold. http://ohs.hr.state.or.us Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS). (10 January 2003) Public Health Consultation: The View-Master Factory Supply Well (a.k.a. Mattel Portland Operations)In 1998, a prospective site developer hired an environmental engineering form to perform an environmental assessment of the site; this assessment discovered volatile organic compounds well above the levels specified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This included levels of TCE which were over 300 times the federal limits. The various concerns who owned the View-Master franchise in the 1950s through the 1970s (Sawyer's and GAF), admitted to using TCE to clean and de-grease parts and equipment, dumping the chemical on-site; this dumping was legal at the time. The EPA has since classified TCE as a “probable carcinogen for humans” http://atsdr.cdc.gov/NEWS/viewmaster.html Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDG), ATSDG Media Announcement (concerning the View-Master case). The industrial chemical is now “thought to cause kidney and liver cancer, leukemia and other health problems” Mandel, Michelle. “Cancer and TCE.” The Oregonian (11 October 2002)TCE was banned in 1977.
Medical impact According to personnel records, up to 25,000 workers may have been exposed to high levels of this carcinogen. At least 100 known cases of cancer (of various types) are known to have occurred among former workers, with 50 fatalities. According to a study performed by the Oregon Department of Human Services, former factory workers are twice as likely to die of pancreatic cancer, and nearly three times as likely to die of kidney cancer. http://ohs.hr.state.or.us/eoe/viewmaster/tcefaq.cfm Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS). (2003) Health and the TCE Contamination at the Hall Street View-Master Plant: Frequently Asked Questions FAQ.
Current situation As of August 2006, surface levels of TCE and other hazardous materials are within normal levels. As a result, the site has been deemed suitable for commercial re-use, and a shopping mall is being constructed.
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