High levels of probable carcinogen reported at Menlo Park restaurant | News | Almanac Online |


High levels of probable carcinogen reported at Menlo Park restaurant

Gombei, a Japanese restaurant in Menlo Park and a former dry cleaning business, has received notice of elevated levels of a probable carcinogen and will be expected to monitor and remediate the site, according to the California Department of Toxic Substance Control. (Photo by Sammy Dallal/The Almanac.)

A building housing a Japanese restaurant and, formerly, a dry cleaning business in Menlo Park has been found to have elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene, a solvent often used at dry cleaning facilities that is "probably carcinogenic to humans," according to the California Department of Toxic Substance Control.

According to a letter the department's project manager Jessica Tibor sent to the Menlo Park City Council, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley and county health officials on Nov. 20, a preliminary air sampling analysis at Gombei, a restaurant located at 1438 El Camino Real, found that the indoor air concentration of the substance was at 38 micrograms per cubic meter. The standard concentration used to screen for cancer risk is 2 micrograms per cubic meter, she explained in the letter.

These levels are not expected to harm human health, according to Gamaliel Ortiz, public information officer at the Department of Toxic Substance Control.

Tetrachloroethylene, or PCE for short, can in high concentrations lead to dizziness and eye irritation. Chronic exposure can also lead to liver damage, Ortiz explained in an email to The Almanac.

In addition, PCE in high concentrations can probably cause cancer in humans, according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA for short.

The levels of PCE detected in the restaurant are below the agency's threshold for screening for health effects other than cancer, but are above the threshold for screening for cancer, he noted.

"The cancer screening level is set at a concentration that if one million people breathed air with a screening level concentration of PCE during each workday over a 25-year period, one of those people might develop cancer as a result," he explained. "The maximum detected concentration in the kitchen area of the restaurant is associated with a predicted cancer risk of two in 100,000, meaning if 100,000 people were exposed to that concentration for 25 years there is the potential for two of those people to develop cancer."

The notification has been given in order to comply with California's Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, or Proposition 65, which "requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm," according to the OEHHA.

The property owners have hired an environmental consultant who will take samples, and there will be ongoing remediation efforts, Ortiz noted.

The restaurant owner could not immediately be reached for comment.


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6 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2019 at 8:38 am

A number of the great staff at Gombei have been working there for many years. Hopefully they are in good health.

2 people like this
Posted by MP_Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Love that restaurant - one of the few family-friendly, non-chain places left in the area. Best of luck to them in cleaning up the old mess and hope the cost doesn't drive them out of business.

2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Gombei has been operating there for over 15 years
What prompted the chemical testing at this point in time?

5 people like this
Posted by Manlo Punk
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 2, 2019 at 6:21 pm

Sounds like the basis for another land grab!

2 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 3, 2019 at 5:50 am

A toxic clean up is, perhaps, the worst thing that can happen to a business. Although the toxic waste likely wasn't dumped by the current leaseholder, it is often a strict liability issue for the current renter. It is an incredibly expensive and regulatory complex process - usually well beyond the resources of even the most sophisticated and successful businesses.

I feel very sorry for Gombei.

2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 3, 2019 at 8:32 am

I wondered what that funny green stuff was in my sushi that was so toxic.....

Sad to hear that the regulators are busy tampering. Very different from the Jason's Cafe predicament, which anyone could have seen coming.

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