Netscape Cancer: far worse than Brand Necrophilia.


Please imagine this as a Joe Chemo version of the cutsey Mozilla dragon mascot instead.

Google workers at Netscape Sacrifice Zone exposed to toxic levels of trichloroethylene.

For at least two months, Google employees were exposed to excessive levels of a hazardous chemical after workers disabled a critical part of the ventilation system at the company's new satellite campus on a Superfund toxic waste site. [...]

"We take several proactive measures to ensure the healthiest indoor air environment possible in our workplace," she said by e-mail.

"We are 100% committed to shipping the highest quality product possible on March 31st."

When Netscape occupied the Google site, a controversial "air stripper" operated there for more than a decade, emitting toxic chemicals into the air without monitoring, according to Lenny Siegel, executive director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, an activist group based in Mountain View. In 1999, Netscape was acquired by AOL, which declined to comment.

[...]

In an effort to reduce the vapors, workers sealed cracks in floors and walls where TCE might get in.

"From beneath you, it devours."

On Jan. 14, the team inspected the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (often referred to as HVAC) and found it had been switched to manual, which prevented the positive pressure system from running continuously.

The move was motivated by a desire to keep the buildings warm as the weather turned colder in the fall, the report shows.

"If you turn off the AC, you will get cancer and die."

TCE, an industrial solvent used in making computer chips, is known to cause cancer and birth defects. [...] Pregnant women who are exposed to low levels of the chemical during a crucial three-week period in their first trimester face an increased risk of having a baby born with holes in the heart, a 2011 EPA analysis found. [...]

The site is now home to about 85 businesses, including [...] a baby ultrasound center, an adoption service, a restaurant and a cafe.

In lighter news, Illinois man found with $200,000 in stolen Wisconsin cheese.

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18 Responses:

  1. Mountain View real estate: so out of whack that even superfund sites are a hot commodity.

    • Nathan Roberts says:

      Really. First thing went through my mind when I read this was the following:

      satellite campus on a Superfund toxic waste site

      Nothing could possibly go wrong.

      • James says:

        The worst and most pervasive lies about any of the 60s-era electronics manufacturing contamination sites is that "it's just trichloroethylene". It isn't, and the heavy metals are far worse.

        "Contaminated ground water migration is not under control"

        • gryazi says:

          There was a blurb in, I think, _On The Edge_ about the MOS Technologies site in PA and the original operators 'trying to do the right thing' by... at least having a tank at all. Interestingly enough, no metals on the EPA list.

          Probably some is down to process differences (unlikely they were doing GaAs there), but still makes me wonder what the hell Silicon Valley was doing as far as 'at least having a tank'?

        • Anthony says:

          Yeah, but working in a building on top of those sites isn't actually going to expose you to heavy metals in the groundwater, unless you're part of the environmental cleanup crew. Volatile organic compounds are, um, volatile, and will escape the groundwater into the air. Especially if they're doing air-stripping in the open.

          (Almost nobody in Silicon Valley drinks groundwater, unless you count Fremont as part of Silicon Valley.)

  2. Jeff Bell says:

    My company almost moved to Ellis street, and this was a major issue of concern.

    Apparently, some of the fountains are actually functioning as water purification systems. They spray the water into the air, where the voc can evaporate and dissipate.

    • Injector says:

      I had to look up the term, "air stripper." Apparently, that's what one is, a device that aerosolizes water so the VOCs will separate. Usually they're enclosed systems that catalyze the oxidation of the vapors with charcoal. I can understand how it would be controversial for one to just be spraying the water into the open air.

  3. Tom Lord says:

    [to be read in your best early mid-century, "mid-atlantic dialect" newsreel voice]

    Captains of industry, stewards of the land, stalwart protectors of mankind are once again transforming the Valley of Heart's Delight but this time instead of draining great aquifers and building mighty dams to satisfy a hungry nation's appetite for canned fruit cocktail they've turned their attention to a new kind of crop -- something you'll no doubt be hearing a lot about. They call it the "semiconduxor"!

    Once the stuff of children's space fiction the semiconduxor promises to revolutionize the future and turn tomorrow into today... and everyday!

    The boys are taking down trees and putting up factories faster than you can say "pass me another apricot, ma". The new semiconduxors will be used, they tell us, in products ranging from electronic brains to radio receivers and even radar.

    Meanwhile across town even more orchards are going the way of the dodo to make room so that every worker can have his own dream home in paradise. Why, there's even a new automobile showroom opening up next to a pasture still used for a small herd of dairy cattle.

    Hey, we're not sure if those cows are licensed to drive!

  4. Otto says:

    Wait. Okay, so, dude stole 21 tons of cheese from Cashton, Wisconsin. Cheese was supposed to go to Texas. But he's arrested off the New Jersey turnpike... Where, exactly, was he doing his cheese laundering? Is there some Delaware cheese piracy that I know not of? Is cheese piracy a big thing? Or, even a thing?

    I'm just curious how you launder cheese.

  5. I'm not sure Netscape is to blame. They weren't the ones who put TCE at that site. I don't know that the air stripper is even relevant; wouldn't it have been in the tap water had they not distilled it into the air? It probably would have even been there at a higher concentration.

    (Disclaimer: I don't know anything about organic chemistry and I contribute to Mozilla, so I may be biased.)

  6. TCE says:

    So _that's_ what they mean by "free onsite drycleaning".