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Context of 'December 3, 2001: Study Says Homes near Ground Zero Should be Cleaned Professionally'

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Allergists urge New Yorkers with lung disease to use caution in Lower Manhattan. Dr. Daniel Mayer, MD, president of the New York Allergy Society, is quoted in Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Online, “I recommend that people with chronic lung conditions and allergies don’t go near the site.” [Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Online, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Daniel Mayer

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences. [New York City Department of Health, 9/17/2001]
Recommendations -
bullet The NYC DOH advises residents not return to apartments or workplaces south of Warren Street, west of Broadway, and north of Exchange Street, until the buildings have been approved to resume tenancy by building management.
bullet The DOH recommends that people wear dust masks upon re-entering their indoor areas. After indoor spaces have been cleaned as per instructions, it should not be necessary to wear dust masks.
bullet The advisory recommends that residents and people working downtown clean homes and offices using “a wet rag or wet mop.”
bullet Additional suggestions include shampooing and vacuuming carpets and upholstery with a HEPA vacuum or a normal vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).
bullet The advisory recommends that residents filter the air in their homes with HEPA air purifiers.
bullet NYC DOH instructs residents to “wash heavily soiled or dusty clothing or linens twice” and remove “lint from washing machines and filters in the dryers with each laundry load.”
bullet The recommendations say that if the “apartment is very dusty,” curtains should be washed or HEPA vacuumed. “If curtains need to be taken down, take them down slowly to keep dust from circulating in the air,” it adds.
bullet Residents are advised to bathe pets “with running water from a hose or faucet.” The advisory adds that “their paws should be wiped to avoid tracking dust inside the home.”
bullet The advisory also states to “[k]eep outdoor dust from entering the home” by keeping the “windows closed” and setting the “conditioner to re-circulate air (closed vents).”
bullet The advisory repeats earlier assertions that air monitoring indicates levels of airborne asbestos fibers detected in outside air does not pose a significant threat to human health. “Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, there are no significant health risks to occupants in the affected area or to the general public,” the agency claims. The DOH’s recommendations are criticized by industrial hygienists and other experts. The advisory is criticized for failing to mention that the “dust” inside these homes could possibly contain asbestos and other toxic substances and for neglecting to inform people that stringent national statutes regulate asbestos removal, requiring professional abatement of materials or dust that contain asbestos or other hazardous substances. US statutory code does not permit unlicensed individuals or contractors, much less residents, to perform asbestos removal. [New York City Department of Health, 9/16/2001 pdf file; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] In spite of these problems, the EPA website will link to the notice. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] and refer people to it who email the agency with questions about the safety of indoor air (see After November 1, 2001) (see After November 10, 2001). Some people, however, never even learn of this advisory and—after hearing repeated assurances from officials about safe environmental conditions—clean their indoor spaces as they otherwise would under normal conditions. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file] Residents who do hire professional cleaners will find that their homes are still not safe. In November, American Medical News reports numerous doctors in NYC are seeing patients with respiratory conditions. “Their apartments were covered in dust, and have since been professionally cleaned” Ira Finegold, MD, chief of allergy at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, will say. “But they return, and after 20 minutes, they’re developing a raspy cough.” [American Medical News, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Ira Finegold

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The Indoor and Built Environment Journal publishes a study by Dr. E. B. Ilgren, MD, which concludes that residents near the WTC site in downtown Manhattan “do not appear to be at risk of long term, asbestos—or metal—related disease but their homes must still be cleaned professionally to eliminate highly irritating, aerosolized dusts.” [Ilgren, 12/2001]

Entity Tags: E.B. Ilgren MD

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

The EPA Office of Research and Development releases a comprehensive study on pollution in and around Ground Zero titled, “Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster.” The study concludes that the majority of residents and employees who returned to homes and offices after September 17 were “unlikely to suffer short-term or adverse health effects” from contaminants in the air. However the study warns that the thousands of people who were caught in the huge billowing dust clouds immediately after the towers collapsed, or who inhaled the air near the WTC site a few days after the attack, were “at risk for immediate acute [and possibly chronic] respiratory and other types of symptoms.” On page 77 of the report, the authors reveal that recorded dioxin levels from September through November were extremely high. For example, between October 12 and 29, a monitoring station on Park Row near City Hall Park recorded dioxin levels that averaged 5.6 parts per trillion/per cubic meter of air. This level is almost six times greater than the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the US, the report notes. The heaviest concentrations of dioxins were found at Ground Zero where concentrations “ranging from about 10 to 170” parts per trillion were recorded during the period between September 23 through November 21. Again the report observes that this figure is “between 100 and 1,500 times higher than typically found in urban air.” David Carpenter, MD, a researcher at State University of New York, tells the New York Daily News, “Those air levels are outrageous. There’s a very significant health danger here.” [New York Daily News, 12/31/2002]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11

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