Villagers Pick Up Pitchforks... Levi Moves Out

J. R. Molloy (
Fri, 29 Jan 1999 21:59:28 -0800

Levi Strauss Quit Cancer-Case Site

Levi Strauss Quit Cancer-Case Site

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Levi Strauss & Co. abandoned a building at its headquarters after seven women working there developed breast cancer, a company spokesman confirmed Thursday night.

The jeans company began an initial inquiry in January 1997 after several women were diagnosed with breast cancer while working at the four-story Saddleman building at Levi's Plaza, Levi spokesman Clarence Grebey said.

The investigation later expanded to include cancer researchers and Patricia Buffler, former dean of the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health.

No link was found between the cancer and the building, but with employees concerned and the company restructuring, Levi relocated 200 employees from the building last October. The remaining furniture was removed from the building last week.

``All of the reports to date have shown that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest any link between these illnesses and the workplace,'' according to an e-mail message sent to employees and obtained by the San Francisco Business Times in a story published Friday.

``Despite this, we fully understand the unacceptable level of anxiety that this ongoing issue has caused,'' the memo continued. ``Consequently, we have decided to relocate employees in the building as soon as possible.''

The women all worked in desk jobs and did not work with hazardous chemicals or special machinery, Grebey told The Associated Press.

``While it is alarming that a number of women developed breast cancer, the cancer researchers said that random occurrences like this happen throughout the general population inexplicably in various surroundings,'' Grebey said.

Despite assurances by the company that the building was safe, employees wanted to be moved.

``The feeling among employees was that there was a hex on the building,'' said Diane Dito, a former process leader in Levi's Prevention Health and Safety Team. ``Some people felt very strongly that it was the building, and the only way to satisfy them was to get them out of there.''

The building is owned by San Francisco-based Blue Jeans Equities West, a development firm that conducted its own independent research and concluded there was no building-related cause to the breast cancer cases. At least two companies have considered moving into the building, the weekly newspaper reported.

No lawsuits have been filed.
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