HP Biomonitoring awarded Packard Foundation grant

Genora Givens, research analyst with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, is sponsoring the Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program. She is a fellow at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Philanthropy and a 2009 graduate the Yale School of Environmental Studies.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started … and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

Biomonitoring measures pollution in people. There has been no independent community-wide human biomonitoring program implemented in the United States designed to screen residents living adjacent to a federal Superfund site for toxic chemicals and radionuclides … until HP Biomonitoring!

The Hunters Point Community Biomonitoring Program – HP Biomonitoring – launched in January of 2019 as the nation’s first pilot initiative designed to offer voluntary urinary screenings capable of detecting, using mass spectrometry, 35 toxic metals and radionuclides known to be present at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (HPNS).

Protesting toxic dust exposures at the shipyard’s Parcel A construction site are Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai, speaking, backed by Alicia Garza and other representatives of POWER (Alicia has since become the internationally heralded co-founder of Black Lives Matter) and the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad University of Islam, on Aug. 25, 2007. – Photo: Chris Brizzard

HP Biomonitoring: Detect, protect, prevent!

HP Biomonitoring strives to advance environmental public health and protect high risk residents through community exposure research – including human biomonitoring, air monitoring and hazard mapping surveillance – toward the ultimate goal of establishing the Hunters Point Community Toxic Registry modeled after toxic registries operating nationwide at the Veteran’s Administration Hospitals and the World Trade Center Health Program.

HP Biomonitoring Principle Investigator Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai served as attending physician for the Palo Alto Veteran’s Administration Toxic Environmental Registry and physician specialist for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. In August 2001, Sumchai founded the HPNS Restoration Advisory Board’s Radiological Subcommittee and contributed to finalization of the Hunters Point Shipyard Historical Radiological Assessment, Volume II 1939-2003.

The Hunters Point Shipyard, the most contaminated Superfund site in the country, is immediately adjacent to the densely packed homes of tens of thousands of people, mostly very low income. This photo was taken Jan. 4, 2010. – Photo: Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle

Alicia Garza, leader of the SLAM (Stop Lennar Action Movement)-POWER-Greenaction coalition, called for testing symptomatic residents exposed to toxic dust generated during grading of the Parcel A hillside in a 2007 article published in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“’The studies have been focused on asbestos, but that should be broadened to test for arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury and other metals. … Blood tests can show that those toxins are very much present in the dust along with asbestos,’ said Alicia Schwartz [now Garza], an organizer with the group POWER, which advocates for environmental and racial justice in neighborhoods.”  

Muhammad University students wear masks at their school on Hunters Point Hill. The masks offer at least a little protection against the many toxins in the soil and the air at the Hunters Point Shipyard lying just across the fence and down the hill. Behind them is the shipyard’s most contaminated area, the Parcel E landfill, which caught fire in 2000 and burned mostly underground for many months, at first emitting multi-colored toxic smoke.

Also depicted are representatives of POWER and Muhammad University of Islam school located atop the Hunters Point hillside overlooking the shipyard. Students and teachers of MUI reported symptoms of upper airway, sinus and lung diseases as early as 2005, and a teacher has now been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

On Oct. 24, 2019, Genora Givens, program research analyst for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, congratulated the HP Biomonitoring Scientific Team on having been awarded the Packard Foundation’s Engagement in Grant Making Challenge. A grant in the amount of $70,000 was awarded to HP Biomonitoring for general support in the startup of a community based medical screening clinic designed to detect chemicals and radionuclides of concern in urine samples submitted by residents living within a one mile radius of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for a duration of at least one year.

The Packard Foundation grant will expand and consolidate existing biomonitoring services into a community based medical screening clinic with administrative, social and inventory space. Additionally, it will fund a half time community health educator, organizer, project promoter and patient recruiter by Jan. 1, 2020.

Calls on Sept. 15, 2018, for biomonitoring by Dr. Sumchai are joined by leaders of Greenaction, Hunters Point Mothers and Fathers, Theo Ellington, a Parcel A homeowner and 2018 District 10 supervisorial candidate (left), and Ramona Tascoe, MD, president of the UCSF Medical Alumni Association Board of Directors and HP Biomonitoring Scientific Team. Their calls were prompted by the discovery of a radioactive object in the area of Parcel A where hundreds of families live in Lennar’s new homes. – Laura Waxman, SF Examiner

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice is the fiscal sponsor. In accepting the grant, Executive Director Bradley Angel described HP Biomonitoring as “an urgently needed, timely and strategic project for the vulnerable, at risk Bayview Hunters Point community.”

Dr. Sumchai’s father, George Donald Porter (right), died prematurely of pulmonary asbestosis following a career as a longshore walking boss and shipping clerk. He is pictured here at Pier 26 with George Carter (left) circa 1965.

Joining a chorus of community and environmental leaders and academic faculty, Sumchai called for the implementation of a human biomonitoring program following the discovery of a radium emitting dial on residential Parcel A in 2018.

This Hunters Point Shipyard worker in 2008 wears no protective gear. – Photo: Lennar

The new HP Biomonitoring Medical Screening Clinic, located at 5021 Third St., adjacent to the Linda Brooks-Burton Bayview Library, will be open soon to serve you! For information and appointments, email HPBiomonitoring@Comcast.net.  

Welcome to the new offices of the HP Biomonitoring Medical Screening Clinic, at 5021 Third St., next to the Linda Brooks-Burton Bayview Library.

To learn more, go to https://www.gdx.net/product/comprehensive-urine-element-toxin-testing-urine and https://www.alignable.com/san-francisco-ca/hunters-point-community-biomonitoringprogram. For nearly 200 more Bay View stories on the shipyard, see https://sfbayview.com/page/2/?s=%22Hunters+Point+Shipyard%22.