Noe Valley Voice May 2005

Letters to the Editor

Unproven Link Between Cell Phones and Health Damage


Curious about your March letter from Nancy Evans regarding the use of cell phones, I went to the Internet sites that she cited. Here's what I read from a summary of an article which she used as a reference: "The main conclusion is that there is no hard evidence at present that the health of the public, in general, is being affected adversely by the use of mobile phone technologies, but uncertainties remain, and a continued precautionary approach to their use is recommended until the situation is further clarified."

Sir William Stewart, chairman of the the U.K.'s National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), repeats this: "What we can say is that there is as yet no hard evidence of adverse health effects on the general public, but because of the current uncertainties, we recommend a continued precautionary approach to the use of mobile phone technologies."

I agree. Don't use them when driving, for instance. And if you are worried about the health of your children from cell phone usage, then don't let them use them.

A second site quoted by Ms. Evans provides viewers with a study, "Mobile Phone Use and the Risk of Acoustic Neuroma," published in Epidemiology in November 2004. The study's conclusions state: "Our findings do not indicate an increased risk of acoustic neuroma related to short-term mobile phone use after a short latency period. However, our data suggest an increased risk of acoustic neuroma associated with mobile phone use of at least 10 years' duration."

In other words, after 10 years' use, you may be at somewhat greater risk of a tumor on the side of your head on which you use your cell phone.

But note, a second paper was cited on the same site ("Cellular Telephone Use and Risk of Acoustic Neuroma," by Helle Collatz Christensen et al). It concluded the following: "The results of this prospective, population-based, nationwide study, which included a large number of long-term users of cellular telephones, do not support an association between cell phone use and risk of acoustic neuroma."

So pick your expert.

And what about this November 2004 "major research analysis" that Ms. Evans cites? According to them, the analysis shows that "radio-frequency radiation from cell phones and antennas damages DNA ion human cells." I dug it up. They do write that four out of five laboratories found "...that ELF-EMF had genotoxic effects on primary cell cultures of human fibroblasts and on other cell lines."

But then they conclude under "Future Actions": "From a scientific point of view, it has to be stated very clearly that the REFLEX data do not prove a causal link between EMF exposure and any adverse health effects."

This is probably a good thing. EMF stands for electromagnetic field, ELF for extremely low frequency radiation. We're exposed to such every time we turn a key in a car, put bread in a toaster, or (oh ho!) type a letter to the editor on a computer. And in fact, perhaps the worst culprit, weighing in at an average of 170 W/m2, is our Mr. Sun, who has been delivering a total energy input of about 2.7 x 1024J, annually.

What do we get from a cell-phone or typical antenna? Again, from the NRPB ( "Based on the technical data, the radiated power from antennas used with macrocellular base stations in the UK appears to range from a few watts to a few tens of watts, with typical maximum powers around 80 W."

That's about the power of a light bulb. I am not trying to be disingenuous here. And I would be happy to see less cell use, not more. I am not a supporter of Cingular or its competitors, and I would much rather speak with Ms. Evans in person than on a phone. However, I believe that to tell readers that there has been a "steady stream of research reports" which "show a link between cell phone use and various health effects" is just plain wrong.

Owen Brown

23rd Street

Free Papers on Your Doorstep--Your Choice


The residents of Noe Valley are lucky to have an excellent, freely distributed community newspaper such as the Voice, to stay up-to-date with what's going on in the neighborhood. We are proud to augment this with free coverage of citywide, state, national, and international news in the San Francisco Examiner and The Independent.

We have heard through Supervisor Bevan Dufty's office that some neighborhood residents don't wish to receive home delivery of our newspapers. We want to make sure that our Noe Valley readers who enjoy the Examiner and the Independent will continue to do so, while those who may not wish to receive the papers don't.

If you have any concerns about delivery of our newspapers--if you're not receiving the papers but would like to, or if you no longer wish to receive them--please contact us at 415-359-2665 or by e-mail at and give us your name, address, and phone number.

Scott McKibben

President and Publisher

San Francisco Examiner

The Independent Newspaper Group

The New Kid on the Block Looks Good

Kudos to the Friends of Noe Valley, the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, and the East & West of Castro Street Improvement Club for their terrific job in fighting for the Victorian architectural aesthetic of the Lunny Building on 24th Street.

Change is inevitable. For those of us who are uncomfortable with many of the changes that have been visited upon Noe Valley since the dot-com era, this is a change that works with the neighborhood. This is a change that I can live with. Thank you.

Susan Frankel

Noe Valley

Coit Tower Murals Had to Stand Up to Their Own Patriot Act


I enjoyed the photo of one of the Coit Tower murals in Rosie Ruley Atkins' article about her Telegraph Hill adventure ["Telegraph Hill Thrills," by Rosie Ruley Atkins, April 2005]. Some details of the mural, not shown in the photo, reveal even more "clear hints of the artist's political views."

The Coit Tower mural of a public library scene was painted by Bernard B. Zakheim. The man reaching for a book in the painting is fellow artist John Langley Howard. The book he is reaching for is Das Kapital, by Karl Marx. He is crumpling a newspaper in his other hand. Another fellow artist, Ralph Stackpole, is reading a newspaper with the headline "Local Artists Protest Destruction of Rivera's Fresco," a reference to the destruction of Diego Rivera's mural in Rockefeller Center after Rivera refused to remove a portrait of Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian revolution. Another man in the library is reading a headline about the Nazi slaughter in Austria, years before the U.S. entered the war against fascism.

These details, and more, help to explain why the powers-that-be launched an all-out political attack on the Coit Tower murals as they were nearing completion in early 1934. As a result, the opening of the murals was delayed for months. This was the same year that saw the bitter maritime worker strike that led to the deaths of several workers on "Bloody Thursday," and then to San Francisco's great General Strike. The murals did not open until after the strike was settled, and only after a controversial slogan, which read "Workers of the World Unite," was removed from one of the murals.

For years afterward, the murals suffered from vandalism. In 1953, at the height of the McCarthy era, the San Francisco Chronicle asked, "Is this art or merely grotesque rebellion of starved souls against the existing order?"

In 1960, the blacklist still in force, the Coit Tower murals were closed, and stayed closed until 1977. Just a few years ago, the city tried to charge $5 or $6 per head to view the murals, but fortunately that experiment didn't last too long. In these days of endless war and growing neo-fascism, the Coit Tower murals are a treasure we should protect.

The story of the murals is told well in Masha Zakheim Jewett's book Coit Tower, San Francisco: Its History and Art.

Marc Norton

29th Street

Kiwi's Great Adventure


The Reeds of Chattanooga Street would like to thank the third grade at Edison Elementary School for finding and taking care of our pet bird Kiwi!

In February, our pet ring-neck parrot Kiwi was missing one day when we came home. Two days later, we had posted "Missing Parrot" printouts throughout the neighborhood. Although we had little hope at the time, within hours of having posted the signs, we received two calls, the second one from Ms. Taxin and the third grade at Edison School.

One of the students had found Kiwi in the playground. The whole class had taken him in, fed him and helped him, as he was shivering, scared, and hungry from his big two-day adventure. Much to our surprise, at the same time that we had made our missing bird poster, the third-graders had made their own. We now proudly have over a dozen beautiful drawings of Kiwi. As a reward, the class was invited to our house to see where Kiwi lived and have homemade cookies and milk. They made a book called "Kiwi's Great Adventure" with many wonderful imaginative stories of Kiwi's two days out in the world.

We would like to thank the whole grade on behalf of our family and the neighborhood. Kiwi is at home and happy, surrounded by the drawings and photos of his new friends in the third grade. Thank you all so much.

The Reeds

Chattanooga Street

How Small Is a Small Business?


While your "Bylines" essay on small businesses in Noe Valley--written by Carol Yenne of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association--focused on Mom and Pop businesses, the statistics in the box accompanying it referred to a much larger group of businesses. When you hear statistics about small businesses, what do you think the standard of size is? Twelve employees? Fewer than 50 employees? Five hundred thousand in annual sales?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the source of statistics in the sidebar to your story, the size standard is fewer than 500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries, 100 employees for all wholesale trade industries, and for the category most Noe Valley businesses would fall into, retail and service industries, $6 million in annual gross revenue (http://www.sba .gov/size/indexfaqs.html).

Most of the local businesses your article described probably started out as really small businesses--microenterprises. Microenterprises are businesses that can be started with five or fewer employees and $35,000 or less in capital. According to the California Association for Microenterprise Opportunity, the more than 2.5 million microenterprises in California account for 17.6 percent of all employment in our state, approximately the same percentage of employment as the 21.5 million microenterprises nationwide.

Kelly Saturno

Wisconsin Street

Seniors Need Those Seats


A sign in the Muni reads: "Federal Law 49 CFR.37.167 Requires That These Seats Must Be Vacated for Seniors and Disabled Persons."

Currently, the law is ignored, with the seats occupied by 20-year-olds while 80-year-old seniors on crutches are forced to stand. What is Muni doing about it?

M. J. Groff

Topaz Way

Excuse Us, Mr. Roosevelt


Great photo of auto climbing the hill on Duncan Street [in the April Fool's section of last month's issue]. However, you state in the caption that FDR was the 31st president. He was the 32nd. Hoover was the 31st. I like your paper talking about Noe Valley. I was born and raised in the Eureka Valley. I remember the Castro cable car, the #8 streetcar--those were the good old days of 7-cent fares and free transfers, 5-cent sugar doughnuts from the Eureka Bakery on Castro Street, 25 cents to see a double feature, newsreel, cartoon, and serial. Keep up the good work. Too bad the Eureka Valley doesn't have a paper to bring back memories, and current news.

Ronald Fitzgerald

Via e-mail

Editor's Note: There were a few other things wrong with that FDR photo, but those were intentional! Thank you, Ronald Fitzgerald, for setting us straight. Readers, if you missed the April Fool's pages in last month's issue, the photo and other dubious news features are stored in our archives at


In the April edition of the Noe Valley Voice, our Rumors Behind the News column listed the cross street for The Pickled Hutch antique shop as Duncan Street. In fact, the store is located at 1605 Church Street near 28th Street. That's the corner with Chuck's Sun Valley Dairy. We apologize for the error.

THE VOICE welcomes your letters to the editor. Write the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or e-mail Please include your name, address, and phone number. (Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication.) Be aware that letters may be edited for brevity or clarity. We look forward to hearing
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