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Friday July 27, 2001

Dilapidated house a symbol of nimbyism 



What Mr. (Ms.) Broudy suggests (Forum July 7) actually happened in Berkeley a few years ago.  

There is a dilapidated one story structure on Rose Street. between Oxford and Spruce on the north side of the street. It was to be replaced by a halfway house. The neighbors bought the property and it remains the same, only more dilapidated, unkempt and overgrown, unloved — a symbol of nimby-ism.  


R. Hall 




What have the studies of the tritium lab shown us? 


In a recent letter to the Planet ( June 11), I reviewed the results of six studies of the Tritium lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The physicists and health scientists who were responsible for these investigations all agreed that the risk from tritium emissions to the lab workers, visitors, and the nearby residents was infinitesimally low. One risk analysis scientist commented that he had never seen a situation with so little risk and so much anxiety. Despite the unanimity of these findings, certain opponents of the lab continue to press for the closure of the tritium lab. In a letter (June 27) one of them took vigorous issue, calling me a snake-oil salesman who was trying to bamboozle the public. However, he failed to challenge the scientists’ unanimous conclusion that the tritiumlab is not poisoning anybody. 

Many of the statements in his letter deserve comment, but space limitations require me to limit my responses to the following claims: 

•“Alarming levels of contamination are locked up in the vegetation, water, and air at the site; including the air inside the Lawrence Hall of Science immediately downwind from the tritium stack.” In fact, Mr. Franke’s recent study found that the “overall tritium inventory in trees and also groundwater is small…” How air can trap tritium is a puzzle. 

•He says LBNL reduced the tritium lab’s activities three years agobecause of contamination, and he believes they are keeping activity down to lull the public. In fact, the lab had a single year of decreased work in 1996-7 while new equipment was being built and installed. The number of tritiations have gradually decreased from about 100 per year in the early 1990s to about 60 per year since 1998, according to Dr. Philip G. Williams,the lab’s manager. There has been no abrupt change. 

•“Mr. Franke stands by his conclusion that a catastrophic release (of tritium) due to earthquake, fire or accident would subject the next-door children visitors (at the Lawrence Hall of Science) to much more radiation than LBNL’s cooked calculations.” In fact, Mr. Franke reached no such conclusions. He quoted without comment or criticism the safety study’s statement that an earthquake would release an unimportant quantity of tritium. Regarding fire, he questioned the calculations of the risk to a jogger at the LBNL fence line if she stayed there for 30 minutes while the tritium lab was being destroyed by a massive fire. He suggested that a further study of this unlikely eventuality be undertaken. The lab has already hired an independent risk analysis group to do this. 

•“The Straume report actually says that LBNL minimizes the danger from tritium and that tritium is more bio-effective (harmful) than gamma radiation.” In fact, the recent safety studies by the SENES group and by Franke agree with Straume about the possibly increased bio-effectiveness of tritium. This was factored into their analyses, and Straume, SENES and Franke all agreed that the risk from the tritium lab was exceedingly small. 

The SENES report concludes that even for full-time workers at the Lawrence Hall of Science “ Because of this small risk value…no additional excess cases of cancer would be expected due to tritium releases from the NTLF.” 

ª“ The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances…later showed a higher than expected breast cancer occurrence in the already high incidence area in the Panoramic Hill area.” In fact, they agreed with the California Department of Health Services Cancer Surveillance Section that “the cancer rates in the area surrounding LBNL were no different from other areas in the San Francisco Bay.” 

•The lab’s scientists are guilty of “sleazy secret activities” and “cooked calculations.” In fact, after all these years of attacks, the lab’s critics are reduced to name-calling, slandering the work of serious scientists, and misquotations. It is time for them to read the six reports, two of which have been paid for by the city of Berkeley, and all of which tell the same story: tritium emissions at the Lawrence Berkeley lab do not add significantly to the background radiation we all receive from cosmic rays, radon gas, and other natural sources of radiation. There are plenty of real environmental problems in Berkeley; the tritium lab is not one of them. 


Elmer R. Grossman, M.D. 

Professor of Pediatrics,  


UCSF School of Medicine 


Everyone has a right to travel safely in Berkeley 



I was happy to read Bill Trampleasure's letter (July 25) about creating a Personal Pedestrian Pledge to safely share the streets with vehicles. I do not have a car, so I walk everywhere. I think the growing problem is that drivers who are in a hurry resent having to share the street with pedestrians. And, if I'm truthful, I admit I resent having to share the streets with drivers! (After all, for most of human history, vehicles did not exist.) 

So here's my pledge: I'll stop resenting drivers and will respect their rights, and I pray that they will stop resenting pedestrians and will respect my rights. Everyone has a right to travel safely through Berkeley — everyone, whether you're a pedestrian, a driver, or a cyclist. Can we all take this pledge? 


Deborah Houy 



Remove poverty to remove exploitation 



The continuing publicity about the local sex-labor Lakireddy case revives questions as to the causes of the shameful traffic in young females, sometimes males. One of the proffered opinions comes from the feminists who claim that men all through the ages have abused women in one way or another, regarding them as inferior beings. 

To some extent only I agree. Far more cogent a reason in my view is the abject poverty in a number of Third World countries which forces parents to sell their daughters, either for direct cash or for promised services in order to eke out their minuscule incomes and to feed their remaining children.  

Only when societies in both undeveloped and developed countries such as ours have pressured their governments to remove the abject poverty upon which the wealthy prey, will there be an end to sex/labor traffic.  

The rich will have to relinquish some of their wealth. Will it not be a worthy sacrifice if parents are no longer forced to see their loved ones carried away to foreign lands? 


Iris M. Cavagnaro