"The 1998 reference in The Somerville News story is a significant error that gives a false impression that the city is relying on outdated data. While it is too late to do anything about your print edition, I ask that you correct the online version of your piece."
--Thomas P. Champion, the city's executive director of communications and cable
To the editor:
I am writing today to renew my request for a factual correction to your story entitled “Tox Doc: Evacuate the building.”
Please note that the state's Division of Occupational Safety issued its report on air quality in the Public Safety Building in October of 2004, not in 1998 as you stated in your story.
The DOS study was based on precisely the type of air quality testing to which the trial lawyers’ paid expert witness defers. Writing about his own sampling technique, he admits that, "The samples for volatile and semivolatile organic materials only determined that these materials are present. Determination of eight-hour time weighted average exposure levels would require additional, and a different type of testing. Therefore, the levels of the chemicals found on the day of the examination often did not reach the minimal allowable dose levels to which one could safely be exposed, as recommended by ATSDR or OSHA."
(ATSDR refers to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the US Dept of Health and Human Services.)
Although carefully worded, the consultant's own report thus confirms that he did not find hazardous levels of any dangerous chemicals.
By contrast, here is the straightforward language from the 2004 DOS report:
"It is the policy of our office to screen for the presence of gross VOC [volatile organic compound] contamination during most routine indoor air quality investigations. Levels above 1 part per million indicate a presence of a source of VOCs which should be further investigated. Note that OSHA allowable exposure limits for most volatile organic compounds are higher than 1 part per million.
"No significant levels of common organic compounds were found on the samples collected on the day of the visit."
The 1998 reference in The Somerville News story is a significant error that gives a false impression that the city is relying on outdated data. While it is too late to do anything about your print edition, I ask that you correct the online version of your piece.
Last week, I told reporter George Hassett that I would be happy to provide him with a copy of the 2004 DOS study, but he informed me that he already had one, which makes this error even more serious.
Please issue a correction at your earliest convenience.
--Thomas P. Champion