A Chicago hormone manufacturer was fined $34,100 yesterday by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after male employees exposed to the hormone complained that their breasts had become enlarged and they had become impotent.
One of the men had swollen breasts removed by surgery.
The fine which OSHA termed one of the highest it was ever levied was imposed on Dawes Laboratories Inc. of Chicago Heights which produces a livestock feed additive known as DES.
DES (diethylstilbestrol), has been found to cause cancer in female reproductive organs.
OSHA said contamination of the Dawes, plant by DES was so widespread that residues were found on telephone mouthpieces, desk clocks and lamps, towel racks and sprinklers in the washroom. 'The guys thought they were washing the stuff off," said OSHA spokesman Frank Greer. "Instead, they were washing with DES."
In addition to fining the company, OSHA ordered immediate use of respirators and protective clothing and gave the firm until July 28 to impose engineering controls to eliminate worker exposure to the chemical. It found the firm guilty of both willfull and serious violations of OSHA's health standards.
OSHA's action came in response to a complaint filed April 28 by the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, which represents the plant's 70 workers. The union said:
"In March, 1977, nine of 17 male workers exposed to DES complained that their breasts had become enlarged. In addition, two of these workers complained of impotence. One worker was forced to seek surgical removal of his enlarged breasts in 1972. Both breast enlargment and impotence in males are know effects of overexposure to DES."
The union compalined that "exhaust ventilation is nonexistent or inadequate" at several, places where DES was handled openly and protective equipment and clothing was not provided.
The union charges that the firm was told of the hazards by a private consulting firm in August, 1976, but did nothing to correct them. It also said the company had doctors give the men male hormones to counteract the breast-swelling, without trying to stop the cause.
OSHA conducted its own investigation May 5 and found "widespread exposure to DES," in addition to confirming the union's specific allegations, according to Greer.
OSHA administrator Eula Bingham, who last month acknowledged the agency's previous laxity in cracking down on serious occupational health hazards and promised more vigorous enforcement, said the Dawes situation was "extremely serious" in light of DES' cancer-causing record and added:
"In the past, OSHA has not always moved quickly enough when it received workers' complaints of imminent danger. I hope our action in this case signals a new day. We are going to place the highest priority on stopping and preventing health hazards of this nature. I intend that action, not procrastination, will be our course."
A spokesman for the union praised Bingham's action as "prompt, forceful and correct." The company issued a statement asserting that the charges were unproven allegations.
"We wish to emphasize that the OSHA statements are allegations only and remain to be proven," said the company through a Washington representative who asked that he not be identified. "We are forwarding a copy of the citation to our legal counsel today for study and for advice from them as to the action to be taken in this matter."
Anthony Mazzocchi, legislative director of the union, said the action was the "first graphic demonstration that OSHA is dealing with serious problems in a serious manner." He noted that citations for "willful" violation were rare. Steve Wodka, a union international representative, said the $34,100 fine - the maximum for three counts of willful violation - plus lesser amounts for less serious counts was also significant. The average for all OSHA fines, he noted, is $26.