While Bush’s mantra is “WMD,” the Berkeley Board of Library Trustees’ is “WCC” (workers compensation claims for repetitive stress Injuries). Expect to hear more about the radio frequency identification (RFID) system having been installed in the Berkeley Public Libraries to reduce WCCs for RSI; that is, unless the trustees change their minds about having Councilmember Gordon Wozniak as the panelist on RFID safety issues at their Aug. 1 RFID community forum.
Wozniak, former deputy head of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s (LBNL) Nuclear Science Division, although a specialist in ionizing radiation (not the radio frequency radiation of RFID) cannot be trusted to give an undeceptive report even on ionizing radiation, let alone on RFID health and safety issues.
On Aug. 20, 1998 (see letter to Berkeley City Council, signed “Gordon J. Wozniak, Radioactive and proud”) Wozniak stood before the City Council, and, in an attempt to downplay community concerns about tritium emissions (radioactive hydrogen) at LBNL, tried to bamboozle the council and the public by comparing the 10 milligrams of tritium emitted by the Tritium Facility to the 50 billion atoms of tritium in the human body. When asked if the 10 milligrams was a smaller quantity than the 50 billion atoms, Wozniak answered in the affirmative. This was a lie. The 10 milligrams of tritium, or 100 curies, is 5,000 billion billion atoms, 100 billion times as many as in a typical human.
(Dr. Julian Borrill, “Many lab scientists duck responsibility to present issues honestly, clearly,” Berkeley Voice, Nov. 26, 1998, and Dr. Roger Byrne, in a Nov. 17, 1998 letter to Mayor Shirley Dean).
Unfazed, Wozniak, now a councilmember, attempted once again “to snooker his colleagues with some statistical legerdemain” (Rob Browning, Daily Planet, Nov. 15, 2002). This time it concerned the narrow difference in effective radio transmission between the controversial Public Safety Building’s communications tower and a proposed alternative. One misfired 6 percent of the time, the other 9 percent, which Wozniak said was a 50 percent gap (3 being 50 percent of 6?!?).
What more fitting speaker than Wozniak to perpetuate the myth that RFID was installed at the Berkeley Public Library to reduce worker compensation claims (WCC) for repetitive stress injuries? In December 2003, Library Director Jackie Griffin told the library trustees that the library spent $1 million in the past five years for worker compensation claims, mostly due to repetitive motion injuries. Actually, the library, in that period, spent just $167,871 on RSI-related claims, only 26 percent of the total $642,161 for WCC. There were no RSI claims in 1998, 2000 and 2004 (“RFID should be canceled immediately,” Daily Planet commentary, March 3, 2005).
How can we trust Wozniak to honestly present the safety and health effects of RFID? His statement in 1998 that concerns about tritium (which emits ionizing radiation) were “wildly exaggerated and unfounded” have been totally discredited by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) whose recently released study states “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionized radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” (“Even lower radiation poses risk, panel says,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 30, 2005).
Please come with an open mind and hard questions to the Board of Library Trustees Community Forum on RFID, Monday Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. We hope the library trustees will have second thoughts and replace Wozniak with an RFID health effects expert such as Nancy Evans of Breast Cancer Fund, SNAFU’s Doug Loranger, or Cindy Sage, environmental consultant.
Gene Bernardi is a member of Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense (SuperBold).