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The doctor is not always right

Gene Bernardi Berkeley
Tuesday August 14, 2001


Even when you are an M.D., prefacing your statements with “In fact” doesn’t make them factual. (Planet July 27) Grossman, after his review of six “studies of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s national Tritium Labeling Facility (NTLF), concluded all the physicists and health scientists involved were in unanimous agreement that the Tritium Lab is not poisoning anybody.  

All the physicists and health scientists authors, other than Franke and NIH, depend for their livelihood on the Dept.. of Energy which owns the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  

Furthermore, all these “studies,” including Franke’s (not yet Finalized) are based solely on data provided by LBNL. 

Below I address some of the Grossman’s so-called facts: 

• City Consultant Bernard Franke’s draft study did not find that the Tritium inventory in trees and ground water is small. Franke stated: “Tritium in trees within a 200 meter radius from the NTLF stack was estimated by LBNL to be less than 1Ci.”  

First, this is an estimate by the body under scrutiny.  

Second, use of the numeral one and measurement in curies is misleading. One curie of Tritium is dangerous. The reason the amount of Tritium in vegetation and ground water is expressed in picocuries (of which there are a trillion in a curie) is because EPA’s maximum allowable standard for Tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.  

The major criticism of Franke’s draft report is that he did not answer the question: what do the high levels of organically bound Tritium in vegetation (345,000pCi/K) and Tritium in rainfall (239,000 pCi/L) mean in terms of the Tritium concentration in the air and ground water?  

Hopefully, Franke’s final report will address this crucial question. 

• Is it a coincidence that the Berkeley Lab has curtailed NTLF’s tritiations and, therefore, Tritium emissions since the city of Berkeley on Dec. 24, 1996 wrote to the California Department of Health Services and asked them “to require an independent soil and vegetation testing for tritiated water vapor and organically bound Tritium at the site of the Lawrence Hall of Science...?” 

Why is it that the independent soil and vegetation testing has not yet taken place? Instead, the lab is doing self-testing of the soil, vegetation and air while NTLF operations are minimal. Their results will be forwarded to the U.S. EPA which the Lab expects will overturn it’s 1998 reassessment that found LBNL qualified as a Superfund Site because Tritium in air samples inside the Lawrence Hall of Science exceeded EPA’s cancer Risk Screening Concentrations. 


Gene Bernardi