Toxicologist Challenges Cahill’s Air Quality Health Effect Findings

car-emissionsBy Charles Salocks

I’d like to comment on some misinformation that Dr. Tom Cahill is promoting about the potential for adverse health effects in future residents of the Nishi property.  My qualifications for making these comments are as follows:  I have a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from UC Davis, and I have 30+ years of experience preparing and reviewing human health risk assessments for hazardous waste sites, (including Superfund sites) and businesses that handle, store and treat hazardous wastes.  I’ve lived in Davis for over 30 years.

I became interested in development of the Nishi property as a result of an ad that Dr. Cahill placed in the May 8 edition of the Davis Enterprise.   Prior to that, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about this issue.  The ad, titled “Nishi and Health,” stated in no uncertain terms that people living within 1000 feet of a freeway have “86% increased chances for having an autistic baby (ultra-fine metals?).”  The bold font is Dr. Cahill’s, and the parenthetical phrase appears to indicate that Dr. Cahill believes this effect may be due to exposure to ultra fine metals, generated by heavy braking during traffic back-ups.

That’s interesting, I thought.  I hadn’t heard about this before, so I looked up the original article.

Volk et al (2011) did indeed report that maternal residence at the time of delivery was more likely to be near a freeway (<1000 feet) for cases of autism than for controls.   However, it is worth noting that these results were based on a total of 57 children, 19 of whom were the controls (that is, the kids without autism).  In their conclusions, the authors stated “The observed associations with traffic proximity merit further research to determine whether these results are reproducible.”  So at this point we have one very small study that indicates a possible effect, and that’s it.

More importantly, the study found a correlation between freeway proximity and autism.  It did not show a cause-and-effect relationship.  This is an important, because two factors can be correlated and have nothing to do with one another.  For example, there’s a very good correlation between the NFC team winning the Super Bowl and the stock market going up.  Obviously, the winner of the Super Bowl does not cause the stock market to move up or down, but the correlation – which just happens to have occurred by chance – is very strong.

In fact, a cause for this effect reported in the Volk study (if indeed there is one) was never identified.  Was it tailpipe emissions from cars?  Particle emissions from braking?  Diesel emissions from trucks?  Legacy residues of lead in soil and household dust, generated when gasoline contained lead?  Homes near freeways were often built decades ago; was there lead-based paint in the home?  What about pesticide residues in the home?  What about the noise and stress associated with living near a freeway?

Note that I am not criticizing the Volk study.  Studies like these require technical expertise, long hours of hard work and are always limited by funding.  In my opinion, the results are intriguing but far from definitive.   The weight of evidence is not sufficient to conclude that proximity to a freeway somehow increases the likelihood of autism.

Nevertheless, Dr. Cahill presents this information as though it’s a fact.  It isn’t; it’s a preliminary hypothesis that may warrant additional research.

I also reviewed Dr. Cahill’s rationale for supporting the New Harmony housing project, which is even closer to I-80 than the proposed Nishi property housing.  He stated that he supported New Harmony in part because it was upwind of the freeway, while Nishi is downwind.  However, this perspective is simplistic and misrepresents the complexity of climatic conditions in Davis.  Wind roses – which are a clever way of graphically presenting wind speed and direction – clearly show that wind speed and direction vary from month to month, and also depend on whether it’s day or night (see http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/wea_windroseclim.pl?caZDAV).   This is important, because in order for Cahill’s “ultra-fine particulates generated by braking on an elevated portion of the freeway” exposure scenario to be relevant, a southwest wind and the traffic backups have to occur at the same time.  The monthly wind rose graphs suggest to me that, for much of the year, these two factors are not likely to occur at the same time.

Although I respect Dr. Cahill acknowledge that he has done excellent research, many of his claims concerning the health risks Nishi residents will face are overstated. When I’m reviewing a health risk assessment, the appearance of unsubstantiated or poorly substantiated conclusions is a red flag.  It means the author wasn’t careful about stating the limitations of the available information, and is instead simply promoting a particular point of view.

Charles Salocks, a 30-year Davis resident, has a a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from UC Davis, and has 30+ years of experience preparing and reviewing human health risk assessments for hazardous waste sites (including Superfund sites) and businesses that handle, store and treat hazardous wastes.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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98 Comments

  1. Roberta Millstein

    In fact, there is a second study that confirms the first.  It can be accessed here:

    http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1393589

    And I am sorry, but I don’t understand Dr. Salock’s reasoning.  If there is a red flag that something (perhaps fine metals, perhaps something else) about proximity to freeways might be causing autism, shouldn’t we be cautious and not build there, especially when the university seems willing to consider additional housing now (we can push them for more) and there are other places in town where we can support tech transfer businesses?  There is nothing so urgent about this project that it is worth taking these risks. 

    I note also that Dr. Salock’s piece says nothing about the possible health impacts of being near the train tracks (so that if the prevailing winds are not from the freeway, they tend to be from the train tracks), nor does he say anything about inversion or elevated freeway. His analysis thus does not fully address all of the issues that Dr. Cahill has raised.

    1. South of Davis

      Roberta wrote:

      > If there is a red flag that something (perhaps fine metals,

      > perhaps something else) about proximity to freeways might

      > be causing autism, shouldn’t we be cautious and not build there

      I don’t think anyone is saying that “freeways” (the wide roads with limited access) are causing autism it is exhaust fumes that (some say) are causing it.

      If we want to be real “cautious” we could ban all cars, trucks and (non steam) rail cars until we know for sure .

      1. Roberta Millstein

        I didn’t say “freeways are causing autism.”  I said that “something about proximity to freeways (perhaps fine metals, perhaps something else) might be causing autism.”  Those are two very different statements.

        Banning cars, trucks, etc, isn’t in the cards, as you well know.  But not building residences at Nishi is easily accomplished.  Vote “no” on Measure A.

        1. ryankelly

          Roberta, You implied it. You said that there was a 1 in 68 chance of developing autism, pere the CDC.  And you then said that Nishi’s conditions would double this – give a 2 in 68 autistic births.  Hoever, there is no proof of this.  You are spreading a falsehood in an attempt to frighten people and get them to vote no on a development.  I would say that there is a correlation  between you opposing development and your negative scientific findings – the more opposed you are, the scarier the health threat you find and not the other way around.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly, you may have inferred it, but I never said it.  Perhaps it is you who has a vested interest in exaggerating what I say in order to more easily try to dismiss it, just as South of Davis did in the comment just above.  You can make whatever accusations you like, but you have no evidence for them.  I am not trying to scare people.  Why would I?  I have no serious opposition to Nishi other than the potential health effects.  I had a few questions, and was on the fence about the project, toying with voting “yes,” when I started to do research on the potential health risks.  That is the primary reason I have advocated voting “no,” and so there is no reason for me to try to make the findings scarier than they are.

          My contention is and consistently has been that there is enough evidence here (for increased chances of cancer, heart attacks, asthma, and autism – although you seem laser focused on autism for some reason) that we should not be subjecting unknowing and thus unconsenting residents to potential health risks.

        3. Matt Williams

          Roberta said . . . “My contention is and consistently has been that there is enough evidence here (for increased chances of cancer, heart attacks, asthma, and autism – although you seem laser focused on autism for some reason) that we should not be subjecting unknowing and thus unconsenting residents to potential health risks.”

          I personally believe Roberta’s contention has considerable resonance, especially the unknowing and thus unconsenting part.  That is the argument that existed prior to adding warning labels to cigarette packages and alcoholic beverages and a whole litany of other products that can have adverse health effects.  The combination of noticing labels and education programs make it very hard to be unknowing about the health risks of certain products.

          Completing longitudinal health risk studies specific to the Nishi site should be on our To Do list regardless of whether the Measure A vote is a No or a Yes.  The results of those longitudinal studies should help us all be more educated/informed.

        4. ryankelly

          Roberta, I told you that the minute you brought in autism, that this discredited every other point you made. At that point you became a non-creditable source of data.   You say that you are just repeating other sources of data, but as a researcher, you have an obligation to be understood and clear, especially when dealing with issues related to public health and a condition that has been linked falsely to life-saving vaccines by another so-called expert.    Other researchers – a medical doctor and a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology have confirmed my own understanding of the studies cited and I believe you are exaggerating risk to in an effort to sway people to vote no on A.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly, there are indeed studies that support a possible link between exposure some aspect of proximity freeways and autism.  That isn’t made up.  Somehow you seem to think that any study that shows a possible connection to autism is like being an anti-vaxxer.  But there are legitimate studies looking for associations.  I have discussed two of them.  That you want to simply dismiss those, and make baseless accusations of that I am exaggerating, shows that you are not as evidence-based as you portray yourself to be.

        6. ryankelly

          Roberta, I am a voter trying to decipher campaign drivel from those who are attempting to sway my vote. Some is obvious – references to “toxic soup” and death by train car explosion – some is harder to interprete, such as traffic and financial data. The worst is unsubstantiated results and opinions from researchers who look down their noses at people who dare to challenge their conclusions.

          Why can’t you say that you were wrong or, at a minimum, mis-spoke, about Nishi.  People have been giving you plenty to think about – enough to question your initial conclusion.

        7. ryankelly

          Roberta, I am a voter trying to decipher campaign drivel from those who are attempting to sway my vote. Some is obvious – references to “toxic soup” and death by train car explosion – some is harder to interprete, such as traffic and financial data. The worst is unsubstantiated results and opinions from researchers who look down their noses at people who dare to challenge their conclusions.

          Why can’t you say that you were wrong or, at a minimum, mis-spoke, about Nishi.  People have been giving you plenty to think about – enough to question your initial conclusion.

        8. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly, sorry, I am not going to admit to having said something false when I haven’t. And I haven’t heard anything to change my initial conclusion, which (together with the studies and data cited by Dr. Cahill) was based on not exposing people to potential health risks even for City benefits, on not proceeding without informed consent, and (implicitly) the precautionary principle. I think Tia has come to a better understanding of where and why we differ.

    2. quielo

      Both these studies are spurious as they do not control for socioeconomic status. Likely people who near freeways are poorer than those who live further away. They are therefore likely to be more obese than those further away but that does not mean that freeways cause obesity.

       

      1. Roberta Millstein

        “No differences were found between cases and controls for any demographic, socioeconomic, or life-style variables that we examined”

        1. quielo

          And which ones did they examine? Your study above says “by sex, age, and broad geographic area” Which means very little. If you are using retrospective databases then much is not captured. Also ~250 people per cohort is very small for small for these types of studies.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          quielo, I agree that it would be better to get more data.  But when we have a red flag we should hold back and learn more, not forge on ahead.

        3. Mark West

          “But when we have a red flag we should hold back and learn more, not forge on ahead.”

          Exposure to the sun causes skin cancer, at a much higher rate than the theoretical risks being discussed at Nishi. Should we block all developments that are in areas exposed to sunlight? Simply living in California exposes you to health risks that are 100 to 1000 fold greater than what you are worrying about at Nishi. Should we ban all housing developments in California due to this ‘red flag?’

          Nothing in life is risk-free, including having to co-exist with folks who refuse to understand the concept of relative risk. Living at Nishi will be no more dangerous than living anywhere else in Davis for the simple reason that the incremental risk associated with the site – using Dr. Cahill’s worst case scenario – is negligible when compared to the general health risk associated with living.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          Mark West, the fact that we are already exposed to risks does not seem to me a great argument for exposing ourselves to more.  By that criterion we could really end up making ourselves pretty bad off.  Excessive sun exposure is avoidable for most people and there have been decades of articles in the popular media telling us to avoid it.  That is not true of the sorts of health risks presented at Nishi.  How many people know anything about exposure to fine metals from braking cars?

        5. Mark West

          “Mark West, the fact that we are already exposed to risks does not seem to me a great argument for exposing ourselves to more.

          The point that you clearly don’t understand is that we are not exposing ourselves to more risk as the relative increase in risk is entirely theoretical (and unproven) and essentially non-existent even if the worst case scenario was true.

          We dramatically increase the costs to society when we attempt to make the world risk-free for those who refuse to understand basic math.

        6. Matt Williams

          Mark, I come down on Roberta’s side of the discussion the two of you are having.  I believe we have an obligation as a society to provide notice when risk is known to exist.  The challenge I see us facing over the next three years is to move from our current status of risk speculation to risk knowledge.

          Mitigating the risk we speculate about can indeed be very, very (prohibitively) expensive.  Mitigating known risks can be focused, efficient and effective, and not terribly expensive.

        7. Roberta Millstein

          Mark West, it’s not that I “don’t understand,” it’s that I disagree with you about how we should proceed when we have some evidence of increased risk concerning serious health conditions.  Truly, there is no problem with my grasp of basic math.  I could accuse you of having a problem with basic ethics, but I’d rather just assume that you and I see things differently.

        8. Napoleon Pig IV

          “But when we have a red flag we should hold back and learn more, not forge on ahead.”

          Roberta, you selected the color of this flag. You chose red, but that is not supported by the inadequate and statistically insignificant data you have cited.

          At best, your flag should be very, very pale yellow – but with the right retrospective data dredging, I’ll bet a person with a different beginning point of view could build an argument for a very, very pale green flag.

        9. Mark West

          Matt – you currently have one person proposing a theory (without evidence) that some extremely low level of risk might exist. It would meet the definition of ‘utter stupidity’ to change public policy as a consequence of that theory. If Dr. Cahill is able to convince his peers to fund research in this area, then I would support his moving forward with the research. If he is unable to convince his peers of the value of that research proposal, then from a public policy perspective, his theory should be ignored.

          “The challenge I see us facing over the next three years is to move from our current status of risk speculation to risk knowledge.”

          It will take decades of research and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to turn this theoretical risk into a known risk, and frankly there are far more important things (with much greater associated risks) that need to be studied.

        10. Roberta Millstein

          Mark West, Dr. Cahill has cited numerous peer-reviewed studies and has worked with colleagues to come to the conclusions that he presents.  Your claim that it is just one person is mistaken.

        11. quielo

          Roberta, I’m not sure what your point it. Everyone agrees that living with any type of pollution is sub-optimal.  If you want to say that a certain site will have a certain level of pollution and present a certain outcome, then that is a high standard and I really doubt you will ever be able to make that stick at Nishi. If you want to wait for more info I don’t see what study you are waiting for. I don’t see anything that will answer the question of risk to an individual and whether that risk is greater than the alternates which might include driving to Sacramento every day.

        12. Napoleon Pig IV

          “Assertions are not evidence”

          On this point, we are in agreement. The assertion of concern to me is your choice of “flag” color.

          Your assertion is not backed by persuasive evidence. That doesn’t mean additional data should not be gathered, but it does mean that until and unless it is, one should be cautious about misleading flag waving.

        13. Matt Williams

          Mark, I believe your characterization “you currently have one person proposing a theory (without evidence) that some extremely low level of risk might exist” is swinging the pendulum to too much of an extreme.  Purely by coincidence on Sunday I ended up in a discussion with the independent statistician who was involved with the Los Angeles studies that are the underpinning of Dr. Cahill’s opinions about Nishi.  The studies in other cities are considerably more than theory, and they include considerable volumes of evidence.  The challenge for us is to efficiently and effectively gather site-specific evidence for the Nishi site so that we can identify/quantify the actual risk rather than the projected risk, as well as the factors that exist at Nishi that impact/mitigate that risk.

          I do not believe the cost will be anything like the “tens to hundreds of millions of dollars” that you project. Is there any provenance that causes you to believe the research expenditures number will be that high? You also project “decades” to reach a level of “known” about the air quality at Nishi.  Why do you expect an air quality study to take that long?

      2. The Pugilist

        In this case the most likely residents are college students, young and temporary.  But the risk numbers I have seen are lower than the general risk, so I’m still not sure why the fuss other than there’s a campaign.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          What is your evidence for the claim that “the most likely residents are college students, young and temporary”?  And even if you are right, what if the young women get pregnant?  And what if they have asthma?

          What is “the risk numbers I have seen are lower than the general risk” supposed to mean?

        2. Louis P

          It would not be legal to restrict occupancy to students, so let’s not make any assumptions that the residents are going to be students who “only” reside in a hazardous living area for a “short” while.

        3. Yes on A Fan

          Lets ignore the facts that apartments off- but near campus are almost exclusively filled with students. Lets ignore the fact that UC plans on housing only 40% of students in their next plan, leaving over 23,000 students needing off campus housing. Lets ignore the fact that the campus is currently housing less than 30% of its students. Lets ignore the fact that the EIR conservatively estimated that it will be 85% students.  Lets ignore the fact that we have a student housing crisis spilling into our neighborhoods and ignore the fact that more and more students are being forced to drive causing traffic and pollution.

        4. Matt Williams

          Roberta and Louis, I agree with your respective conclusions in your respective “worst case scenario.”  The question I pose to both of you is what is the likelihood of your worst case scenario happening?  Roberta, how many single student pregnancies does UCD experience on average each year?  What proportion of those pregnancies are carried to term as opposed to terminated?  It would also be useful to know the living arrangements of the students who got pregnant.  What proportion in the dormitories?  What proportion in apartments?  What proportion in converted Davis single family residences (mini-dorms)?  What proportion living outside the UCD/City geography?

          Tia was going to try and run some of those numbers down, but as yet she hasn’t posted them.  Armed with those numbers, we would be able to project the likelihood of such a pregnancy happening, which would in turn allow us to determine whether that likelihood is meaningful or not.

          The asthma sufferer will have been dealing with that affliction all his/her life, and both the student and the parents of the student will no doubt be very well informed about the impact of air quality on his/her asthma.  The only meaningful asthma sufferer risk will come from any asthma sufferer who willfully chooses to ignore the known risk associated with living near a highway.

          Finally, there is a very reasonable comparison that can be drawn vis-a-vis the proportion of rental units that are likely to be occupied by students . . . the rental history at Lexington Apartments.

          Bottom-line, we have the opportunity to chase down meaningful, relevant data rather than speculating.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, I can turn the question around to you – how many pregnancies would you find acceptable?  Is it low enough that we feel we as voting citizens can decide, oh, sorry, we didn’t think you were a likely scenario?  I can tell you that every quarter I have students in my classes who are pregnant or have small children.  (And I am not sure why they would feel obligated to report that information to the University).  I imagine they live wherever they can, just like everyone else, and in the absence of information about the potential health risks (which they probably would be) might find a location near campus that is not a dorm attractive.

          This location will be near to jobs (I thought that was part of the point) and so might well draw unsuspecting and thus unconsenting non-students with families.

          You are mistaken about asthma.  I did not show symptoms until I was twenty, when I was in college, when my allergies to cats and dust and various trees/grasses developed.  I understand that this is fairly common.

        6. Matt Williams

          Roberta, my personal life experience tells me that the number of such pregnancies is less important that the pre-natal care that the pregnant woman gets.  My son (now 45 years-old) was a placenta previa birth, and our failure to be proactive enough with prenatal care caused us to be blindsided when Dianne went into premature labor.  Active prenatal care will substantially mitigate the chances of the “absence of information about the potential health risks” and “unsuspecting and thus unconsenting” situations happening.  I can not imagine any Davis healthcare provider (especially an Ob/Gyn) not being fully informed and proactively informative about any health risks associated with Lexington, The Arbors, New Harmony and/or Nishi.  Further, the County Health Department can insist on the inclusion of appropriate notification clauses in the Nishi leases (and the Lexington, The Arbors, and New Harmony leases too), as well as appropriate air quality warning placards at the exit doorways of the buildings if the Nishi-specific longitudinal air studies confirm any health risks.

          Education and open/transparent disclosures can be a powerful weapon in mitigating the health risks, just as warning labels and education mitigate other health risks we face in our lives.

        7. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, my experiences with OB/GYNs, their level of knowledge, and the information that they provide to their patients, is not as rosy of a picture as you present.  Actually, I’d generalize that to all doctors.  There is a lot of information to keep up with, and all too often, in my experience, doctors substitute their own judgment for what is important rather than finding out what is important to the patient.

          Likewise for warning labels.  They can often be utterly useless: witness Prop 65 signs, which are basically just ignored and which become an excuse for doing nothing.

        8. Matt Williams

          What I am hearing you say is that because of the flaws of human nature, there is no amount of education that will suffice to produce an informed populace.  Is that correct?

        9. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, no, I am not saying that.  I am saying that it requires a prolonged and continuing education campaign, as has been done for smoking cigarettes and sun exposure, not just a line on a form or a sign on a wall.

        10. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, yes.  But I have no confidence (and certainly no guarantee) that the education campaign would be carried out. And so, we are back in the realm of unsuspecting and unconsenting.  Thus my vote “no.”  Had we paused to take more time to study or to do more to ensure genuine informed consent, my vote might be otherwise.

      3. Tia Will

        quielo

        Both these studies are spurious as they do not control for socioeconomic status”

        Actually, the studies themselves are not spurious. They were observational in nature with low numbers of participants and with no attempt to demonstrate causality. The authors themselves rightly  pointed out  in their discussion section that their findings could not be extrapolated to other sites nor could they be used to demonstrate causation. This is how science gets done when there is not massive funding, one very small step at a time looking to see if there is enough evidence to even proceed with further studies. My take on these studies is that there is certainly enough evidence to support the authors recommendations for more study of this issue. However, I do not see it as enough to go against the authors own precaution against drawing conclusions from their studies.

        Roberta is not making false claims. She simply draws her line in the sand at weighing risk vs benefit at a different point than where I draw mine. She sees these studies as a “red flag” where as I would see them as a “yellow”. Doctors do this all the time. I have had many instances in my career where I believed that the risk / benefit ration was in favor of  one treatment option while another colleague saw the same situation differently. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and one of you assumes exclusive responsibility for the patient.

        1. Matt Williams

          Agreed Roberta.  Well said Tia.

          The old saying, “Can’t be all things to all people” definitely applies to Nishi.  Which leads us to another old saying, “Reasonable people can agree to differ reasonably.”

        2. quielo

          You are right that there is no problem with the studies themselves. I had meant that the use of them to prove this point was “spurious”. They really mean nothing as the authors themselves point out and are primarily a plea for more funding.

           

        3. Roberta Millstein

          It isn’t correct to say that the studies mean nothing and I don’t think the authors think that, either.  You may not agree with me that the flag is red, but there is definitely a flag there.  And my point is that we would be remiss in forging ahead without paying attention to that flag.

    3. Michael Harrington

      What about those oil tanker cars tipping over and blowing up yards from these big, dense housing buildings?  There is a risk, and it is more than minor or far-fetched.   It has happened in Davis, but thankfully not with a fireball.   There is a wonderful graphic now up on the No on Nishi Facebook page:  “Nishi Move in Kit.  It has a gas mask, a Nishi Train Derailment Evacuation Plan (“Stay away from Tracks, DO not Drive, Do not Panic”), and a jar of ear plugs.   Crazy and in fun?  Yes.  But it makes the points:  toxic air; few ways out if there is an emergency; and it will be NOISY and unpleasant place to live.

      So go ahead and parse out the nano-bits of these research reports all day long:  there  remains a serious question about the air quality that these Yes on A people want to populate with the young lungs of the children of far away, clueless parents who believe the Internet hype and falsehoods of the Nishi rental housing marketing sites.

      Vote NO on Nishi, NO on A, a week from today.

       

        1. Marina Kalugin

          NON_FICTION is stranger than ANY Fiction Frankly…

          says an old time hippie activist from the 60s….and if you read MY life story you would say I was lying…luckily I am a packrat…and one of these days will have time to go through the mounds of boxes in my garages and storage areas…    LOL

          you want docs?   come get some and help me sort out my garage at the same time…

          did I mention I am retiring and moving… though not necessarily in that order.

          I cannot afford to retire until I fix up my Davis house…..and rent to someone who can pay the high bills in Davis….my hubby and I cannot…

          I even have some VHS from the first two times our parent group PACE managed to save Deanne’s job …..

        2. Marina Kalugin

          I know Don…….those were rhetorical questions and yet, why do you moderators nor post REAL news today…..

          I sent a real scoop and yet, you have plenty of time to try to keep ME moderated…and yet REAL news is hidden behind the NISHI nonsense….

          why is THAT?

          [moderator] Hi Marina,
          I am the volunteer moderator. All I do is review posts and try to keep the conversation civil and on topic. I don’t post news. I don’t see anything you send to David or to the Vanguard directly. I’m not on the editorial board. I don’t know what David is going to write about or have any input about any of that.
          Don

        3. Biddlin

          “you have plenty of time to try to keep ME moderated…”

          Which could be so much better spent with the addition of my “ignore” button .

          (grass roots campaign in progress. I am not affiliated with the Vanguard or any of their agents, covert or otherwise.)

      1. Matt Williams

        Mike said . . . “What about those oil tanker cars tipping over and blowing up yards from these big, dense housing buildings?  There is a risk, and it is more than minor or far-fetched.”

        Mike, given your comment above, is it reasonable to assume that you believe the apartments on Olive Dive should be condemned, Slatter’s Court should be closed, the trailer park on Olive should be condemned, and most of Old East Davis should be razed?

        1. Michael Harrington

          Matt:  your comments make no sense.   The Olive small unit housing is too close to the tracks.  We get that.  But just because bad planning happened 100 years ago does not mean that we should repeat the mistake.

        2. Matt Williams

          So Mike, are you advocating for a double standard?

          Lexington = Okay to be blown up in a fireball

          Nishi = Not Okay to be blown up in a fireball

          Old East Davis = Okay to be blown up in a fireball

          If we are going to fix the one, why wouldn’t we fix the others?

           

    4. Frankly

      Roberta – If you don’t mind me asking, do you have someone in your circle of family or friends that has a child with autism?   Or is this disease something you are personally involved with in some capacity?

      After reading all of what you have written in opposition to the Nishi development, you seem to demonstrate some significant passion connected to the disease.

      I have read some recent articles that question if we really have a significant increase in the disease, or if we are just much better at diagnosing it and other related maladies.

      It is understandable why people, especially parents with autistic children, would want answers; but from what I read there isn’t really anything conclusive at this point… only some theories.

      I would hate to see a good project like Nishi be rejected due to unproven theories of the cause similar to that of vaccinations.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Frankly, not in my immediate family, but in my extended family and circle of friends.  I don’t think that’s surprising given that the incidence of autism is 1 in 68.

        But my concern over the health risks isn’t about autism alone.  The reason that autism in particular keeps coming up is because that is the statistic that the “Yes on A” folks keep focusing on.  It’s not me that is focusing on autism.  My concern is that there is a potentially an increased risk of heart attacks and cancer and asthma and autism – all of those things together.  That is one of my objections to the piece that Dr. Salocks has written above – it only addresses one part of the picture.

    5. Robert Canning

      Let’s be clear – the articles cited say nothing about causality. They are associations that are, in fact, quite small. And they report relative risk only  (odds ratios) and say nothing about what may have caused the autism in these small samples.  These are the ONLY studies of their kind and to base these sorts of statements on them does a disservice to the authors.

  2. Yes on A Fan

    “However, this perspective is simplistic and misrepresents the complexity of climatic conditions in Davis.  Wind roses – which are a clever way of graphically presenting wind speed and direction – clearly show that wind speed and direction vary from month to month, and also depend on whether it’s day or night”

    So much for Dr. Cahill’s “prevailing wind phenomenon” which creates “the perfect storm”.

    1. Louis P

      Dear Yes on A Fan:

      So you are saying that in order to make claims of scientific validity, the wind/climate conditions at a locale/site under discussion must be constant?  The wind can’t change direction, force, year round, every day. etc. Really?

      I think that requirement would preclude ANY discussion, wouldn’t it?

      Just asking…..

      1. Yes on A Fan

        No, wind direction is important- there seems to be some misunderstanding what is “prevailing” and what that means. Obviously when it’s north, the air is pure, when its south, the delta breeze, it is only bad when traffic is backed up at rush hour and the pollution quickly blows away when there is little traffic; it doesn’t settle when the wind is blowing afterall. I think there is an effort to portray it as bad 365/24/7 when that is clearly not the case.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          If I understand Dr. Cahill correctly, the worst months are supposed to be in the winter, when you have a lot of braking from Tahoe traffic, plus inversions.  On the link that Dr. Salock provided, not all the winter months are showing data.  But on the ones that do show wind data for winter months, the prevailing winds are from the north (train tracks – so, no, not “pure”) or the south (freeway).

        2. Yes on A Fan

          So this worst time “is supposed to be” the winter time when most people are using their heating and air condition systems (with filters)….?  And since when do railroad tracks by themselves pollute?   Its at the station perhaps and both the north and south wind will miss Nishi at the train station. This whole wind thing is confusing.

        3. Yes on A Fan

          This data shows Dr. Cahill’s prevailing wind phenomenon (ie in the same direction as the highway from the southwest) only occurs 9% of the time.  And the fraction of time with little or no wind speed, winter inversion, even lower.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          Yes on A Fan, the majority of the property is bordered by either train tracks or freeway.  Only a small piece to the northwest is not.  So, I don’t know what this prevailing winds argument is supposed to buy.

  3. Louis P

    Dr Salocks wrote an interesting piece that we might all want to take a closer look at.  But I am kind of surprised that Dr. Salocks did not make even the slightest attempt to address his objectivity here other than to cite some credentials that appear to be credible but may in fact not be relevant (Nishi is not a Superfund site, so if claim you have experience working with Superfunds sites am I supposed to be thereby compelled to believe what you say about Nishi?).

    Most reputable scientific journals these days require a statement/declaration of possible conflicts in interest before they allow an author’s work to be published.  Would be great to see that here.

    PS  I have no conflict of interest as a buyer or seller of property at Nishi, etc.

    1. Don Shor

      Most reputable scientific journals these days require a statement/declaration of possible conflicts in interest before they allow an author’s work to be published. Would be great to see that here.

      He has no conflicts of interest with regard to the Nishi project.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Interesting that you’ve leapt to defend Dr. Salocks, but that when similar baseless accusations were made against Dr. Cahill, you said nothing.

        In the absence of evidence, I assume that both Dr. Salocks and Dr. Cahill are expressing their best judgment of the situation.

      2. Michael Harrington

        Then list the last five years of his grants and funding agencies and consulting projects.  That’s what experts do in litigation:  they disclose it all.  I’m not saying whether or not this expert has any conflicts, but I am saying Don that your blank statement is not based on fact.

  4. Marina Kalugin

    and who paid this latest guy?    and why????????

    In REAL science one can find experts on ALL sides of the same topic..

    follow the money and believe who you will….

    I have bigger fish to fry than this stupid debate….see my other posts….and follow the money and vote your heart..

     

  5. nameless

    MK: “and who paid this latest guy?    and why????????

    You could just as easily ask who paid Dr. Cahill and why??? These sorts of baseless accusations aren’t helpful to the discussion unless you can prove them.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      I KNOW Dr. Cahill…. my ex worked with him…

      why should I ask????/   I was shocked when he was on the side of the developers for New Harmony…

      I would not let MY children live there…. if they would qualify…

      even our street a few blocks away from the freeway is TOO close…

  6. Marina Kalugin

    if NOT for big oil we would ALL be driving electric cars and the public transit would actually be easier to plan and predict around……

    and, yes, that goes for ALL entrenched technologies in this USA>>>..minisplits are WAY more energy efficient than standard HVAC>>>..and round we go..

    minisplits were de rigor in EU and Turkey and even the soviet block… decades ago…..

    of course, one would then not need so much oil, nor so much electricity….nor….the list goes on.

    look at who is funding Nishi and Aguilar and Dodd……any questions class?

    many of you will continue to flunk as long as you read and believe what is in the US papers……

  7. Marina Kalugin

    and, who hired him Don?

    and which side are you on, Don?

    and which side is the DV on?

    and, yes, if I had time I could find and trot out many faculty at UC and round the world to prove EITHER side….if only I had the time….

  8. Marina Kalugin

    one doesn’t have to look far to see that there are a lot of toxins around….and now the FDA< ADA AMA and etc push those toxins into our food, water, and pharmas….

    interestingly, the very first child I knew who was borderly autistic, was the daughter of a close friend….she was normal at birth and I started caring for her shortly after my oldest son was born.

    she BECAME autistic after a vaccine….borderline……

    she is truly an inspiration … she is a brilliant artist and lives and supports herself.

    GMOs were just starting to be pushed….as a scientist, I even bought the old flavor saver….what a bunch of garbage…but they were selling it at State market…

    I was premed when I arrived in Davis…..graduated from Lowell HS in SF,   not sure how I graduated or got into UCD>>…as I have little recollection of sitting in classrooms much….too many causes around…

    I was working for said cult back in the day when one could actually make a living …life was cheap as a starving student with nothing and no time to shop…

    even bought my own house in 79…  Donna Arnold was the realtor…anyone know HER????the cycle did NOT go well, but I closed on my first place….left said cult, went back to UCD for my engineering degree.

    Decided to study up on real estate and from that point bought and sold my own placess..but only sold 2 and regretted each time…

    hello….UCD did NOT have industrial engineering?????????so I decide to go into management, and then for my MBA>…hello……UCD does NOT have management WTH…

    I already have ALL my major requirements for my double major in Russian and whatever…..first pre-med…then perhaps pre-vet…then psychology….truly I always wanted to do landscape architecture..

    I know, my grandpa in Australia raises bees….entomology must be it…even beekeeping and beekeeping lab….but who had time to do all those labs and requirements…

    I decide to just get my BA in Russian and leave for my MBA>..in the meantime I am working fulltime as a reentry student in Student Affairs..

    I dabbled in a lot and always a student of anything which presents or is interesting…

    off-topic…maybe…LOL….but some may get some connections at some point…

    [moderator] Ok, yes: this is very much off topic. No more of this kind of thing, please. Stay directly to the topic of the thread. Thanks.

     

  9. Louis P

    Those graphs about wind direction are quite vivid.  But where are they from, that is what source?  What time period do they represent?  Who did the data collection on which they are based?  And where was the location of the data collection?  All of this would be helpful to know….. otherwise, they just look like pretty graphs…….

  10. Rich RifkinWDE 73

     “He stated that he supported New Harmony in part because it was upwind of the freeway, while Nishi is downwind.  However, this perspective is simplistic and misrepresents the complexity of climatic conditions in Davis.  Wind roses – which are a clever way of graphically presenting wind speed and direction – clearly show that wind speed and direction vary from month to month, and also depend on whether it’s day or night …”

    When I read that Dr. Cahill supported New Harmony because he thought it was upwind of the freeway and opposes Nishi because he thinks it is downwind of the freeway, I realized he really does not understand our local winds. As every road cyclist from the Davis-Woodland-Vacaville-Winters region knows, the wind shifts all the time. In the cooler months we are more likely to get a northwest wind (blowing into New Harmony) and in the warmer months we are more likely to get a south or southwest wind. However, ride 3-4 miles east or west and each of those might just flip.

    An additional complication (which affects both New Harmony and to a lesser extent Nishi) is that the winds along the Causeway/I-80 are often different than everywhere else in our region. In the morning (as cyclists who commute to Sacramento know) the wind often blows in from the east (and that rarely happens in the rest of our region); in the evening it shifts 180 degrees. For that reason, Davis cyclists who work in Sacramento often get a headwind both ways.

    A sidenote on (probably legitimate) worries from particulate matter due to diesel: Every study is in a certain sense out of date. The reason for this is because those studies must be done over longer periods of time — often the risk is rated over a lifetime — yet the amount of DPM has dramatically declined in California over the last 30 years due to increasingly stringent regulations. Take a look at this graph from the California Air Resources Board to see how much less diesel particulate matter today is being exhausted compared with 20 and more years ago:

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/images/2015/cancer_risk.jpg

    Here is an article which explains the effectiveness of the regulations:

    http://www.arb.ca.gov/newsrel/newsrelease.php?id=758

      1. Don Shor

        Those graphs about wind direction are quite vivid. But where are they from…etc.?

        They are pretty pictures, and they illustrate something important to this discussion. They are from here: https://weatherspark.com/averages/30142/Davis-California-United-States

        These were derived from data for a four-year period, 2010 – 2013. It is much more detailed information than we usually get about “prevailing wind.”

        When I took a course in atmospheric sciences years ago, we were told that the ‘prevailing’ wind here was from the south-southwest ten months of the year. NNW occurs often enough in December and January that the wind can be said to “prevail” from that direction in those two months. Data I recall from that time showed wind direction rarely from west, and very rarely from due east.

        But that isn’t the whole story.

        The actual pattern of the wind is predominantly (i.e., more often) from the Delta here, especially from mid-afternoon to late evening. Most nights the pressure gradient drops in the middle of the night and there is a period of calm. Then the gradient reverses and a slight breeze prevails from north to south until shortly after dawn. That’s why the balloons that go up in Woodland at sunrise end up south of Dixon, even when there was a delta breeze the evening before. And that’s why crop dusters and pesticide applicators work early in the day, or spray from ground rigs in the middle of the night, since they need to spray when wind speeds are less than 10 mph.

        From a gardening standpoint, the wind direction and coastal influence is what makes Sunset Zone 14 (Davis) differ from Sunset Zones 8 (Woodland) and 9 (Sacramento). There are differences of extreme due to geography and proximity to the delta: I’m sure bicyclists are well aware of the strong wind that prevails at Pedrick and Sievers much of the time, and may have noticed the still area that is a couple of miles further east on Sievers – where fog usually forms first in the winter.

        What this site has done is crunch the numbers in much more detail, showing that there is not actually a consistent wind direction ‘prevailing’ at any time of year. There are times of day, and seasons, when we can predict greater likelihood of one wind direction, but even then it is not consistent.

  11. Marina Kalugin

    on topic……look at Hiroshima and look at the many oil spills…..when I was a freshman I volunteered at the oil spill in SF bay…you know …near the same refineries the oil tankers will be on…

    it was 70 or so…and since I had lots of time as a premed UCD student, I got out my hiking gear and was bussed to the bay to use detergent on the baby birds who would die otherwise..

    I think it is even the same oil companies, though some change their names regularly as they get sued for things…

    Is this on topic enough?   the SAME oil tankers from the SAME martinez area…..and the SAME companies…and the TRACKS are even the same……for those who question Roberta?

    you mean the same tracks that ran along the Nishi farmhouse which went down in an “accidental fire”…..

    that was a historical farmhouse…..tsk tsk…..developers don’t like THOSE….cause many a problem…

    the one where I lived with said cult members in the 70s?    that was within 50 yards of the tracks and the waterbed I inherited from the prior owner would slosh around every time a train went by.

    is THIS on topic enough…….yes it is some decades later and yet, it is still the same oil companies who StiLL have oil spills   – I just saw another one in the SEa of Cortez or the other one sea near Florida…..in recent weeks…..and yet I, who cares about people and wildlife, so still continue to volunteer at……and the very same train tracks….

    and may someone recall how many people have been killed on those very tracks…..we even have days commemorating young men who were hassled and killed on those very tracks…

    what was that boys name?  that was a dozen years ago or so..

    of course, all of THIS is off topic right?    you mean the oil tankers, the train tracks, the Nishi farmhouse, and the spewing of the oil particulates….SOOO close to the new proposed apartments for students and don’t forget the CONDOS for Seniors…..

    don’t forget who the most fragile are….children and seniors…..did someone forget about the CONDOs for Seniors…

    NO ON NISHI>>>>>>get a clue and get a grip…..

     

  12. Marina Kalugin

    Matt,   I see that you are now discussing ob/gyns……have you been pregnant?   or is there something we don’t know about you…..

    perhaps you gave birth in a former lifetime?

    1. Matt Williams

      Marina, my son was my best man in my second marriage in 1999, and was a 1 month old papoose at my first marriage in January 1971. Not many kids get to be in both of their father’s weddings.

      The birth of my son in December 1970 presented me with quite a few challenges.  The pregnancy was a surprise and did not go full term.  As a result I learned a great deal about Ob/Gyn activities . . . and I personally wrestled with Choice.

      I have been, am, and always will be Pro-Choice for a myriad of reasons; however, when faced with making my own choice, I chose Life . . . as did my son’s mother.

      So to answer your question, I have never been pregnant, but I have walked in pregnant shoes.

      1. Michael Harrington

        Matt: wonderful personal answer

        i’ll buy the first six pack after June 8.

        Why after the 8th? Because I’ll be hung over from the 7th!

  13. Marina Kalugin

    boy and those northern winds could be a bear…..going upstream up Anderson  from the campus to the newer apartments on the edge of town…..you know when Covell was the edge of town………against the headwinds…..killers….

  14. Tia Will

    Matt and Roberta

    I had a few thoughts about your previous conversation.

    I personally believe Roberta’s contention has considerable resonance, especially the unknowing and thus unconsenting part.  That is the argument that existed prior to adding warning labels to cigarette packages and alcoholic beverages and a whole litany of other products that can have adverse health effects.

    It was not actually the same argument that existed prior to the cigarette and alcohol warning labels. The critical difference is that well before the warning labels, the risks and causative nature of cigarette and alcohol use on multiple diseases had been well established. There was nothing speculative about these risks. With the risk of autism, we have nothing but association and speculation.

    Roberta, in fairness to others who have decided in favor of Nishi, it was me that started the focus on autism. I did this not because I know the validity of the information on respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses nor cancer, but for the sole reason that pregnancy related illness is within my area of expertise and so I felt confident in addressing this area while I did not feel that I had the expertise to address the others with the same level of authority. And I would have everyone realize that in medicine, expert opinion, either mine or Dr. Cahill’s or Dr. Salocks’ is considered the weakest level of evidence, not the strongest. For strength of evidence we rely on large, prospective, double blinded, randomized studies which we obviously do not have as regards to freeway proximity studies.

    Also what is missing from this discussion is what are the risks of not building Nishi. To really have a complete risk/benefit analysis, we would need to know the number of injury/death related collisions on the major freeway routes ( say east and west bound I-80, and the 113 to Woodland) as the most likely routes from neighboring communities to UCD. Then we would need to know how many students are housed in these communities and subjected to this risk by the lack of local housing. This may be obtainable data ( Don, Matt….anyone?). I did a quick Google search and came up without anything useful.

    Finally, I want to apologize for not coming up with the UCD student pregnancy data. This turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I doubt that I will be able to deliver ( so to speak).

     

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Tia, as a general rule, yes, we want large, prospective, double blinded, randomized studies.  But I think if you reflect for a moment you’ll see that we aren’t going to get that here.  For one thing, people know that they are living near a freeway (so, doubled-blinded is impossible).  For second, I don’t think we can randomly assign people to housing the same way we can give people the treatment drug and a similar-looking control.  And finally, there are a lot of studies indicating the health risks of living near freeways.  I think it would be unethical to do a study like that even if the first two impediments didn’t apply.  Even if you don’t agree with me on that last point, however, I think you can see that there isn’t going to be a large, prospective, double-blinded randomized study on this issue.  So, what do we do?  Do we forge on ahead and hope that there is no harm being done?  Or do we do the studies that we can and act cautiously, since there are serious health harms in question?  I still maintain that the ethical choice is to do the latter.

      As for the commuting… I have asked you several times how you know what residents’ driving habits will be.  Even if you assume that the residents will be students (and I have seen no basis for that assumption ), you don’t know what the residents’ driving habits will be.  Maybe a spouse will work in Sacremento while the other spouse attends school, or maybe the student themselves will work outside of Davis.  Maybe there is a relative outside of Davis that the student is visiting often.  There will be ~1700 parking spaces at Nishi, and I don’t see how any data can tell us what people will be doing with those cars.  You can’t insist on good data in one realm and then ignore it in another.

      I am not surprised about the lack of pregnancy data.  I don’t see why students would be obligated to inform the university of that.

      1. quielo

        I would expect there is a decent set of pregnancy data though whether you can access it is another matter. Students insured through UC SHIP insurance or who access the on-campus health services will have a medical record noting the pregnancy. The data should be relatively complete for the SHIP members.

         

        Do not agree at all on the prospective double blinded study. While it may sound rigorous to those that are not familiar with science large cohort safety studies are almost always observational and “double blinded” is an exclusively interventional term.  That is, you would not move people to the freeway, but only observe the outcomes of people who live next to the freeway. That being said since this would be an open system and you would have no control over where they came from, where they went, or what they did while living next to the freeway you would need a very large cohort to show which is why waiting for data which is not likely to come in our lifetimes is fatuous. Tia is correct that risks need to be balanced and people do not have the option of living in the Shire after the return of the King.  They need to live somewhere and Nishi may be a better choice for them than driving the 113 to Woodland. Certainly we have tens of thousands of people living next to freeways, airports, seaports and other known emitters already.

        1. Roberta Millstein

           

          “That is, you would not move people to the freeway, but only observe the outcomes of people who live next to the freeway.”  – Isn’t that what I said?

          “They need to live somewhere and Nishi may be a better choice for them than driving the 113 to Woodland” – Yes, so now that the University has shown themselves to be a willing partner, let’s impress upon them the urgency of densifying their existing proposals and housing more of the students.  No one living on this particularly risky site and no one having to live in Woodland if they don’t want to.  I fail to see how that is not a better solution.

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