Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD
15 min readJan 15, 2022


Presented to the Bayview Hunters Point Environmental Justice Task Force -January 19, 2022

17 years have passed since demolition, deconstruction, deep soil excavations and grading of the Hunters Point hilltop began to make way for the dirty development of a federal Superfund site. Welcome to the Unveiling of Cancer Alley at the Hunters Point Shipyard.

“This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of human rights of its largely African American residents, including the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to health and the right to an adequate standard of living and cultural rights.”

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commission []

Steph Curry’s Cancer Alley documentary follows residents of St. James Parish — home to seven of the ten most cancer ridden census tracts in America!

On March 2, 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a harshly worded condemnation of plans to advance industrialization of Cancer Alley — an 85 mile chemical corridor sited along the Mississippi River extending from New Orleans to Baton Rouge where 150 petrochemical plants operate and where clusters of cancers have been detected that disproportionately burden descendants of enslaved Africans forced to labor in the sweltering heat of sugar cane fields.

Map of the Gulf Coast region 85 mile chemical corridor along the Mississippi called Cancer Alley

Research published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology in January of 2022 concludes there has been a fiftyfold increase in the production of chemicals since 1950 and that “chemical pollution threatens Earth’s systems by damaging the biological and physical processes that underpin all life.”

“Chemical pollution has crossed a planetary boundary, the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.[]

Burgeoning Body Burden of the Earth — Image from Establishing Medical Necessity for Implementation of a Human Biomonitoring Program at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard

On October 8, 2021 the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a hard fought historic resolution recognizing access to a healthy and sustainable environment as a Universal Right. []

The Union Carbide Corporation plant in the background of the Holy Rosary Cemetery emits 4 tons of the cancer causing air contaminant ethylene oxide each year. A ProPublica analysis, published on November 2, 2021, found it to be one of the top emitters of cancer causing chemicals in the region.

According to data from the EPA National Air Toxic Assessment map, the cancer risks in predominantly African American Districts of St. James Parish average 105 cases per million in contrast with predominantly white districts where cancer risks are as low as 60 per million. []

The EPA National Air Toxics Assessment mapping tool detects cancer clusters in dark grey within the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana called Cancer Alley

In 2018 the St. James Parish Council approved the “Sunshine Project,” allowing one of the worlds largest plastics facilities to be sited in Cancer Alley that, along with new methanol complexes, will boost toxic air emissions generated by over 150 existing petrochemical plants in the region.

The proposed plant will double cancer risks according to EPA projections and generate annual carbon dioxide emissions in St. James Parish exceeding 113 countries. Fourteen United Nations Human Rights experts branded the industrial expansion and granting of pollution permits to these industries as “environmental racism”. Many Cancer Alley residents live within feet of chain metal fence lines separating industrial plants from churches, schools and playgrounds.

Too close for comfort! A home within feet of a petrochemical plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Photo: Giles Clarke/Getty Images [’t-given-up-the-fight-against-polluters/amp/]

“It’s easy to get used to atrocities that are happening in your own backyard, but when you step back and look at the situation along Cancer Alley, it rises to the level of human rights abuse and a humanitarian tragedy.” Anne Rolfes — Louisiana Bucket Brigade []

Residents Fight Back as Cancer Alley is Getting More Toxic

“The African American descendants of the enslaved people who once worked the land are today the primary victims of deadly environmental pollution that these petrochemical plants in their neighborhoods have caused…We call on the United States and St. James Parish to recognize and pay reparations for the centuries of harm to Afro-descendants rooted in slavery and colonialism.” United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner — March 02, 2021

A Look at Cancer Alley From the Front Lines

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana has consistently ranked among the states with the highest rates of cancer. Geographic Information System (GIS) mappings conducted by the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice proves there is not only a correlation between industrial pollution and race in nine Louisiana parishes along the Cancer Alley chemical corridor but that pollution sources increase as the population of African Americans increases.” [”

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley gained a powerful “Ally” in 2015 when Lt. General Russell Honore’ joined the fight for environmental health and justice in his home state. [] Honore’s clout is evident in the Youtube video A Look at Cancer Alley From the Front Lines:

But while residents of Cancer Alley face a cancer risk from exposure to toxic air contaminants 20 times greater than the national average, Louisiana is not on the list of the Top 10 states with the greatest number of dangerous chemical emitting facilities. With 886 petrochemical facilities…California is!

After officials repeatedly dismissed claims that Flint’s drinking water was making people sick, residents, activists and medical professionals took action.

The New York Times Notable Book What the Eyes Don’t See tells the dramatic story of the Flint Water Crisis, written by a relentless physician who stood up to power. In the summer of 2015 Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician, was told by her friend Elin that rumors of lead in Flint’s drinking water were true. Along with Elin and her colleagues Jenny — a scientist- and Marc Edwards — an activist… and a mushrooming coalition, they exposed the Flint Michigan water crisis and the negligence, corruption and complicity that led to it. By 2021, criminal charges had been filed against fifteen Michigan state and Flint city officials. Michigan Health Director Nick Lyons faces nine felony manslaughter charges.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released the cancer report for the county on Thursday, October 29, 2020 that finds cancer incidence rates in Genesee county to be higher than the rest of Michigan in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis. []

Dr. Mona Hanna — Attisha writes in her book about the Flint Michigan crisis that she believed government claims the Flint River water source was safe until activists and a friend convinced her it was not. Dr. Attisha detected blood lead levels in Flints most vulnerable children three times higher than allowable. Dr. Attisha and colleagues met with the Flint Michigan City Manager in 2015 and were told it would “bankrupt the city to return to a clean drinking water source.”

A disease or cancer cluster is defined by the CDC as a greater than expected number of cases of a disease in a geographic area over a period of time that meet several criteria:

The observed number of cases is higher than an observer would expect in a similar population.

The cases involve the same type of cancer or cancers known to be induced by the same cause.

The population in which the cluster has been detected can be defined by anthropometric factors such as race, ethnicity, age or gender.

The geographic boundaries of the cluster can be defined.

The observed number of cases in the cluster and expected number of cases can be defined over a time period in which the cases occurred. []

The California Department of Public Health verified eight disease and cancer clusters in the state by 2011. In addition, independent researchers detected “significantly increased rates of cancer of radiosensitive organs” in population centers adjacent to the nine major nuclear installations in the U.S. — including Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories operating under the auspices of the University of California. []

NRDC mapping of cancer clusters verified by the California Department of Public Health. []

According to the NRDC these disease clusters highlight the need to protect people from toxic chemicals by directing federal assistance to state and local health officials to investigate suspected disease clusters and their causes and by eliminating toxic releases through enforcement of strong environmental controls.

CANCER ALLEY AT THE HUNTERS POINT SHIPYARD — a System of Federal Superfund Sites

A Corner on Cancer Alley at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Photo: Melia Robinson Business Insider 2017

“A new report claims that the Navy’s cleanup efforts at the site of San Francisco’s new $8 billion neighborhood rely on outdated safety standards, equivalent to those used by the EPA in 1991. The cleanup level for radium 226— which is responsible for most of the site’s radiological contamination — is nearly 900 times higher than the level permitted by the EPA. These low standards could mean a greater number of workers and future residents face a higher risk of cancer due to the sites residual contamination.” San Francisco’s planned $8 billion neighborhood has a radioactive past, and it may put people at a higher risk of cancer than experts thought. Aria Bendix — Business Insider October 31, 2018

Activism and Citizen Science come together at the Greenaction Protest September 2018 held following the discovery of a radioactive object in the residential community The Shipyard.

It should come as no surprise that disease and cancer clusters are being mapped by the Hunters Point Biomonitoring Foundation, Inc as it enters four years of operation as the nation’s first human biomonitoring program established to offer urinary toxic exposure screenings to residents and workers at a federal Superfund system.

A paper trail of public health research, epidemiological disease trackings, investigative journalism and a string of lawsuits offer clear evidence of cancer and disease clusters in the 94124 zip code and census tracts bordering the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.

In 1995 lead investigator Dr. Frances Taylor, released an SFDPH study conducted in response to “pleas from the predominantly African American neighborhood. Many residents believe they’re victims of environmental racism, suffering from cancer, asthma and other diseases caused by industrial development that no one else wanted.” The investigation detected a cluster of breast cancer in women as young as 20. African American women accounted for much of the excess incidence and mortality.

The 2004 SFGate investigation Too Young To Die Part One: Life’s Toll, detected infant mortality rates in BVHP twice as high as the rest of the city and one of the highest in the state. Statistical analysis revealed the risk of being poor and African American alone did not account for the cluster of excessive infant deaths in the 94124 zip code. The infant deaths clustered around the South Basin region of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in the Alice Griffith public housing complex.

Attorney Angela Alioto (l) with African American plaintiffs Gary McIntyre and Ceola Richards who sued for retaliation after failing to adhere to the “code of silence” Lennar Corporation demanded from employees as clouds of toxic dust engulfed the Bayview Hunters Point community. McIntyre was treated for asthma, skin rashes, hair loss and other health effects. The lawsuit quickly settled.

A string of lawsuits filed against Lennar Developers and its subcontractors Gordon N. Ball, Inc and CH2M Hill began in 2007 when Attorney Angela Alioto — former president of the Board of Supervisors accused Lennar of “environmental racism” for allowing clouds of toxic construction dust to escape from the shipyard development site “exposing neighbors and school children to potentially harmful airborne asbestos”. In deposition testimony Gary McIntyre stated that following heavy grading of the Hunters Point hilltop in the Spring of 2006 Lennar refused to shut down work even when air monitors detected asbestos in concentrations triple the state allowance. McIntyre developed symptoms of asthma, skin rash and hair loss, substantiated by medical records, and testified that in a meeting with Lennar executives he was laughed at for his hair loss. Lennar was cited by SFDPH three times in 2006 for dust violations and fined $515,000 by BAAQMD in 2008 — Air District spokesperson Lisa Fasano called it “the biggest fine for a dust violation in the Bay Area air district history. []

The grading of an estimated 1.2 million tons of asbestos and heavy metal containing serpentinite rock from the Hunters Point hilltop in 2006 as in 2022 conducted at a “naked” chain metal fence line adjacent to Hunters Point homes, schools and playgrounds. Photo: Liz Hafalia Chronicle

The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously to support a resolution calling for a temporary moratorium and independent health assessment during a September 7, 2007 community hearing in which parents, students, teachers, custodians and school nurses attested to a cluster of asthma, pneumonia, nosebleeds and headaches in Hunters Point children, adults and school employees triggered during the grading of over 1.2 millions tons of serpentinite rock from the Hunters Point hilltop.

Lawsuits were filed in Superior Court charging whistleblower retaliation and wrongful termination by Christopher Carpenter — a Parcel A worker fired following a physical altercation with a supervisor over dangerous deep soil excavations and toxic dust emissions that “enveloped him in a cloud” while working in 2006. Carpenter died in 2016 of a rare cancer of the lymphatic system called Peripheral T-cell lymphoma. Carpenter is a principle plaintiff for the nine thousand plaintiff Hunters Point Community Lawsuit.

Christopher Carpenter enters the hospital in 2006 months before his death on March 6, 2016. Carpenter’s wife Danielle appears in the youtube video short Toxic Land:

On June 19, 2008, 18 Bayview Hunters Point residents and workers sued Lennar and it’s contractors in Superior Court on behalf of their minor children who suffered headaches, skin rashes and respiratory ailments during the Parcel A excavations. Marsae Scott ( a minor) et al versus Lennar Corporation et al was appealed on May 22, 2013 in a tort action arising from “their alleged exposure to hazardous substances in dust displaced by defendants during the grading of a redevelopment project. On appeal, plaintiffs argued triable issues of fact exist to support causation of all claims.”

The San Francisco Department of Public Health and UCSF Professor John Balmes — a Lennar consultant — provided testimony opposing child plaintiffs who required hospitalization and ER care for asthma, nosebleeds and pneumonia. Balmes was awarded a seat on the California Air Resources Seat in 2007.

“It is highly unlikely that exposure to naturally occurring asbestos from grading operations at Parcel A will create a significant risk to human health in the community.” John Balmes, MD UCSF Professor of Medicine and Chief Occupational and Environmental Medicine SFGH in Scott — v- Lennar

In a 2019 letter published in the SF Bayview Newspaper Balmes apologized to the Bayview Hunters Point community and admitted he acted as a paid consultant to the shipyards master developer when he issued this statement in testimony against child plaintiffs hospitalized for asthma and pneumonia.

In a March 2019 letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Tomas Aragon MD, DrPH documented a 31% increase in lung cancer in men in the 94124 zip code — weakly attributed to smoking!

A system of three federal Superfund designated properties are geophysically connected to the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The Bay Area Drum Site is a California state Superfund site located on Thomas Street. Soil analyses detected VOCs, lead, PCBs and petroleum hydrocarbons above screening levels.
Disparities in hospitalizations and emergency room visits in the 94124 zip code have been documented for decades by the Department of Public Health for cardiopulmonary diseases linked to toxic air contaminants.
Hidden Hazards is a BAAQMD funded research project conducted by a team of community investigators led by chemist Raymond Topkins. This graph documents the dangerous overlap that exists in the south-central Bayview Hunters Point region where a “nest” of sensitive receptors is sited in a region of toxic emissions.


Hunters Point Biomonitoring Programs geospatial mapping of cancers linked to ionizing radiation exposure centers around the historic entry to the radiation laboratory campus sited on the southern shoreline and unfortified western fence line extending southeast to Building 606 where a cluster of brain, lung, thyroid and canine cancer deaths is documented among employees of the SFPD. Note the number of yellow pins corresponding to brain and central nervous system tumors. Red pins represent brain cancer, green pins represent thyroid cancer, blue pins represent lung and airway cancers and white pins represent leukemia and lymphoma. Black pins are verified canine and feline deaths due to cancer that cluster around the western fence line.
Environmental Geographic Information Systems (gis) mappings offer overlapping evidence of radiation exposed regions of the shoreline and detection of radioactive biomarkers and a cluster of cancers known to be caused by exposure to radioactive and carcinogenic heavy metals.

Nick Squires is the “Citizen Scientist” and former resident of West Hanover Massachusetts who developed a rare brain tumor and spent years mapping cases among childhood friends and neighbors living within 2 miles of the shuttered National Fireworks company.

The Massachusetts Cancer Registry reviewed data for census tracts in Hanover and found “statistical elevations in the incidence of invasive and benign brain and central nervous system tracts from 2006 to 2015”… but did not detect spatial and temporal distributions linking the cluster to the suspected source of exposure. EPA investigations of the fireworks site detected arsenic, VOCs and carcinogenic heavy metals. All have been linked to cancer.

Unlike the geospatial clustering of radiosensitive cancers around a radiation source evident in the HP Biomonitoring cancer cluster, the patterns of cancer cases mapped in both West Hanover and Acreage, Florida are diffuse and more consistent with a drinking water source than airborne transmission. In Acreage, Florida the state health department verified the cancer cluster and environmental testing detected Radium 226 in drinking water but a source of exposure was never confirmed.


Heavy equipment operations within 10 feet of the “naked” chain metal fence separating the shipyards radiation contaminated shoreline from the dense south central neighborhood. Photo taken by a resident living 250 feet from the fence line at Revere and Fitch.
The unfortified western fence line separating a radiation laboratory complex at a federal Superfund site from a community of 35,000 people extends north to the Hunters Point hilltop and south to Yosemite Slough.
LEJ youth participate in a toxic tour of an easily accessible system of federal Superfund properties.


Urinary screening conducted on a BVHP resident living six blocks from the shipyards heavily contaminated southern shoreline detects 12 chemicals in high normal to floridly toxic concentrations including cesium, cadmium, nickel, platinum, thallium , copper and tungsten. Like the majority of Hunters Point urinary screenings manganese and vanadium are detected in concentrations exceeding the reference range. Despite having lived and worked for 25 years in a food desert, the nutrient elements are in a normal range. . The secret to surviving Cancer Alley lies in community activism and scientific literacy.

THE CONTAGIOSITY OF COURAGE — The role of the Citizen Scientist and Community Activist in Surviving Cancer Alley

From the Gulf Coast to Acreage, Florida. From West Hanover, Massachusetts to the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in San Bernardino County, California. From Flint Michigan to Bayview Hunters Point, communities find hope, inspiration and the strength to stand tall against government silence and corruption, corporate greed, environmental racism and systematic genocide through the Contagiosity of Courage of environmental activism and citizen science!


Human Biomonitoring: State of the Art-PubMed:

Human Bodies as Chemical Sensors: A history of biomonitoring:

The Landfill in Our Bodies:

Death and Courage at the Hunters Point Shipyard:

High Cancer Rates in Bayview Women:

Hunters Point Shipyard Cleanup Used Outdated and Grossly Non-Protective Cleanup Standards:

Cancer Risk at the San Francisco Shipyard Due to Poor Safety Standards:–10

A Spatial Study of the Location of Superfund Sites and Associated Cancer Risk:

Cancer Cluster Definitions:

California Cancer Registry:

Atomic Bomb Long Term Effects:

94124 Census Tracts:

United Nations Universal Human Rights:

Environmental Justice For All Act:

USA: Environmental Racism in Cancer Alley Must End:

A former nuclear-testing site in San Francisco is turning into an $8 billion neighborhood for the middle class:–11/

Lennars Lawsuits: https://sfbgarchive.48hills.orgs/sfbgarchive/2008/07/29/lennars-lawsuits

Genesee County’s Cancer Rate Higher than the rest of Michigan:]

Uncovering the Flint Water Crisis: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha:–3d81–11ec=a61f-0bf8e82339a8.html–7–19_BVHP_Cancer_Incidence.pdf




Ahimsa Porter Sumchai MD

Founder, Director, PI - HP Biomonitoring/ Founding Chair- Radiological Committee Hunters Point Shipyard RAB 2001, Former Attending MD VA Toxic Registry & SFDPH