Workers Rally Over UCSD Cancer Cluster

Protestors Demand Replacement Of Literature Building Elevator

Dozens of staff, faculty, and professors rallied on the U.C. San Diego campus Wednesday over fears that their workplace is unsafe.

It's a story the 10News I Team first highlighted on Monday.

"Our rate of breast Cancer is 4 to 5 times higher than that of the general population," said Literature Chair Nina Zhiri told the crowd gathered around her holding signs and a mock coffin.

There have been 8 cases of breast cancer in six years among those who work in the Literature building. Two women have died.

"The university has not taken action, that is unacceptable," said Stanley Melad. His mother, Susan, is one of the women who died of breast cancer. She worked in the literature building for 27 years.

Staff members contacted the I-Team after a report was given in confidence to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox last year by it's author, UCSD Dr. Cedric Garland. It detailed a possible link between cancer risk and electro magnetic fields, or EMF, surrounding the building's elevator. At various times the EMF near the elevator measured at a higher level than is considered safe by some U.S. studies and standards set in Europe.

"The elevator and electrical equipment are probably to blame," said Zhiri.

The elevator sits on the first floor of the literature building, an unusual design for a multi-story building. Most elevators are docked in a basement, reducing the chance that EMF surges will affect those nearby.

The report given to the chancellor said there was a one in three thousand, three hundred and thirty three chance that the cancer rates in the building were due to chance alone.

It also detailed that EMF may reduce the effectiveness of Tamoxifen, a popular breast cancer treatment.

"Chancellor Fox, we know the administration can do the right thing," a student protestor told the Chancellor after protestors stopped at her office.

The workers want the university to replace the elevator with a safer one. They handed her a petition signed by 13 hundred people.

Chancellor Fox told the crowd that more study is needed. However, she assured them that UCSD is taking the cancer cluster seriously.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am concerned about this, want to do the right thing, consistent with the fiduciary duties to the University."

The University has commissioned another study by a well respected UCLA epidemiologist, Dr. Leeka Kheifets. However, there are concerns among the workers about her impartiality. Dr. Kheifets is associated with the Electric Power Research Institute. It's a non profit that studies energy, and its members are U.S. energy providers.