Open letter of apology from UCSF Professor John Balmes, MD, to the Bayview Hunters Point community and Ahimsa Sumchai, MD

The California Air Resources Board honors its members with a wall of their portraits. – Photo: Diana Miller

To the Editor:

I read with interest Dr. Reza Shirazi’s article “University of California’s disservice to the Bayview Hunters Point community.” Dr. Shirazi interviewed me for this article and made me aware that I had unintentionally misrepresented my relationship with Lennar regarding asbestos dust levels during the grading of Parcel A as an early step in residential development at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. I was asked by the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health to provide advice about the issue of asbestos dust generation during Parcel A construction in 2006-2007. 

I said at a public meeting on Jan. 28, 2020, that I had not been paid for this consulting work. When I made that statement, I did not remember that the UCSF Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine had been reimbursed for the time I spent on this work. 

I now want to make a sincere apology to the Bayview Hunters Point community and to Dr. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai in particular for my mistake in making the incorrect statement at the January meeting that Dr. Shirazi reported on in his recent article. I respect Dr. Sumchai’s deep commitment to address the environmental injustice that the Bayview Community has experienced over many decades.

John R. Balmes, MD

Professor of Medicine, UCSF

Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley

Dr. John Balmes joined the faculty at UCSF in 1986 and is currently professor in the Divisions of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He also serves as director of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, director of the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, a consortium of programs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UCSF. Since 2008 he has been the physician member of the California Air Resources Board. He can be reached by email at john.balmes@ucsf.edu and by mail at 1001 Potrero Ave., Room 3501, UCSF Box 0843, San Francisco, CA 94110.