It is important, as Maryland seeks to move from the smokestack industries of the past to the high-tech future, to remember that there is still life in some of the old smokestacks. Cox Creek Refining Co., in northern Anne Arundel County, had its share of difficulties before being bought by a Japanese company, but is thus far one of the survivors.
Now the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office has cited Cox Creek for abnormally high levels of lead dust, a byproduct of its copper refining process. Federal safety standards say workers may not be exposed to lead dust concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter during an eight-hour shift, but Maryland authorities say they measured concentrations two to ten times greater during one shift in July. Such high concentrations, breathed in by workers, can cause anemia, damage kidneys or the nervous system and cause high blood pressure, birth defects, even sterility.