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Read the studies

Elmer R. Grossman
Tuesday July 09, 2002



To the Editor: 

It has taken over a century for our university to develop into one of the greatest centers of learning and research in the world, and a significant part of that achievement is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At that extraordinary institution, scientists have discovered new chemical elements, found new subatomic particles, helped explain the basis of photosynthesis, invented better lamps and energy-efficient windows, and discovered a genetic cause of heart disease, to name a few of their accomplishments. 

For the past eight years a little cabal of fear-mongering extremists has worked full time to destroy the Berkeley Lab. Unhappily, they managed to enlist the city council in their campaign which led last year to the closing of the world-renowned tritium labeling facility. Now, they are continuing to search for other aspects of the lab to assault. As usual, they invent non-existent threats to our health and safety and impugn the honesty and competence of the scientists who work at the lab. And, as usual, they come time after time to the city council to demand that the city fund their depredations. In the last few years they have talked the council into paying for two studies of lab safety. The studies, which were done by scientists chosen by this little group, failed to support their contention that the lab was a hazard to our health. This was also the finding in 5 studies by other scientific groups including the National Institutes of Health, the California State Department of Health, the United States Public Heath Service and an independent risk analysis organization. 

At the June 25th council meeting a spokesperson for the anti-lab group made a personal attack on the honesty of a lab representative. This was quite in keeping with the traditional behavior of these people, insulting and demeaning everyone who disagrees with them. They call their opponents fascists, baby-killers, liars, snake-oil salesmen, and shills. Finally, the lab people who spoke next at the meeting responded with appropriate vigor, pointing out the nonsense, distortions and untruths with which the so-called CMTW and their allies have bombarded our community.  

The response from Councilmember Worthington was astounding. He angrily berated the lab representatives for pointing out the dishonesty of their attackers, and he complained that he did not have enough facts to judge the problem! For years he has heard the anti-lab group fulminate and slander without offering a single comment on their behavior. He has heard and seen the lab’s June report to the council and he must have read the seven health studies which demonstrated that the tritium lab has never been a risk to any of us. And he says he needs more information!  

The anti-lab cabal and their friends on the council have abused the democratic process, wasted our time and our tax dollars, destroyed a small but valuable research lab, and subjected us to poisonous paranoia for too long. They have made our city council meetings into an ordeal and a laughing stock. It is high time that Berkeleyans who respect the scientific process speak up to defend the Berkeley Lab and oppose the degradation of rational public discourse in our city. 


Elmer R. Grossman