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Environmental Impact of 9/11 Attacks

Project: Environmental Impact of the 9/11 Attacks
Open-Content project managed by Derek, paxvector

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The Civil Service Employees Association tests a dust sample taken from a window air conditioner located at the Department of Motor Vehicles offices and finds 8 percent asbestos. [New York Daily News, 9/11/2003]

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Juan Gonzalez, a New York Daily News reporter and author of the book, Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse, tells The American Prospect: “In 25 years as a reporter, I’ve never faced as much scrutiny or as much difficulty getting stories in the paper as I have had around this issue. There’s been enormous concern expressed by some government officials and some civic leaders about my reporting, that it’s unnecessarily alarming people, and I believe that some of these government officials are doing a disservice by unnecessarily saying that things are okay when they really don’t know.” [American Prospect, 2/25/2002; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Juan Gonzales

Category Tags: Key Events

R. Radhakrishnan, Director of the Asbestos Control Program in the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), sends letters to owners of buildings located within the zone of WTC contamination requesting “copies of the environmental hazard assessments including bulk sampling results and air monitoring results and a summary of cleanup activities” at their buildings within 5 days. The letter recalls that they had been advised in September (see September 16, 2001) to have their buildings professionally tested for asbestos and other contaminants. If tests proved positive for any dangerous contaminants, they were to have had them abated professionally. The letter also says that building owners “are responsible for the cleaning of building exteriors, grounds, and common areas.” The letter contains no reference to the federal regulations that govern asbestos and other hazardous materials. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The DEP makes no effort to enforce compliance with this request. By September 2002, only 354 of the roughly 1900 buildings that were required to provide the agency with data and documentation will have responded to Radhakrishnan’s request. Of those, 31 buildings will say they found dangerous levels of asbestos requiring professional abatement. Others will provide records that are incomplete or inadequate. The DEP does not issue a single citation for building owners or managers that do not respond. [Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler, 2/10/2003; New York Daily News, 9/11/2003]

Entity Tags: Radhakrishnan

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow states, “Based on our findings, and now really more than 10,000 samples of a wide range of substances, we have found no significant long term risk posed by the outdoor air.” [USA Today, 2/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

The New York Law Journal reports that the Legal Aid Society’s offices, located adjacent to the destroyed World Trade Center at 90 Church Street, “are so contaminated with asbestos, mercury and other poisons that the building’s interior will have to be stripped to the slab, cleaned and rebuilt.” [New York Law Journal, 2/1/2002; Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

By this date, more than two-thirds of the 62 rescue workers who came from Menlo Park, California, have complained of respiratory problems. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file; Mercury News (San Jose ), 2/4/2002; Associated Press, 10/29/2003]

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaims, “Every test that has been done says the air quality was in acceptable limits.” [New York Daily News, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael R. Bloomberg

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

The Delta Group releases a final report on air quality data collected in Manhattan between October and December, 2001 (see October 2, 2001-Mid-December, 2001). Thomas Cahill, PhD, Delta Group member, is a noted expert on composition and transport of ultra-fine airborne particles. Dr. Cahill explains that World Trade Center aerosols contained high levels of sulfur, sulfur-based compounds, and very fine silicon that probably came from the thousands of tons of glass that had been in the WTC buildings. The presence of these fine particles decreased during the month of October. The largest spike in very fine particle levels measured 58 micrograms per cubic meter which Cahill says was “an extremely high peak.” The sampling also indicated that there were almost always high concentrations of coarse particles—those about 12 micrometers to 5 micrometers in diameter—present in the air near the WTC site. “These particles simply should not be there,” Cahill says. “It had rained, sometimes heavily, on six days in the prior three weeks. That rain should have settled these coarse particles.” He says their presence suggests the hot debris pile was continually generating the larger particles. The study also determined the chemical composition of the dust it sampled. Some of the metals found in the air occurred at the highest levels ever recorded in the United States. Metals present at high levels included iron, titanium (some associated with powdered concrete), vanadium and nickel (often associated with fuel-oil combustion), copper and zinc. Mercury, lead, and asbestos were present at low levels. [On Earth, 2002; Dateline (Univ of Calif, Davis), 2/15/2002; Chemical and Engineering News, 2/18/2002]

Entity Tags: DELTA Group, Thomas Cahill

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health, testifies before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and says: “The data from air quality tests thus far have been, in general, reassuring. None of the testing done to date has shown results that would indicate long term health impacts.” But his assessment is based on a flawed interpretation of the AHERA standard. He incorrectly (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) says in the testimony that “the clearance/reoccupancy standard for indoor air in schools after an asbestos abatement project… is 70 structures of asbestos per square millimeter.” [New York City, 2/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Thomas R. Frieden

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Government statements, Key Events

The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office convenes a hearing on the environmental issues that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center. Hugh Kaufman, the EPA ombudsman’s chief investigator, remarks during the hearing that he believes the EPA, as well as state and city officials, have intentionally utilized inferior testing methods in order to avoid finding evidence that environmental conditions threaten public health. “I believe EPA did not do that because they knew it would come up not safe and so they are involved in providing knowingly false information to the public about safety,” Kaufman, says. “Not just EPA, the state and the city, too. We also had testimonies that all the agencies—local, state, and federal—have been consorting together every week to discuss these issues.” [CNN, 2/24/2002] Numerous experts testify at the hearing, criticizing the EPA’s response to the September 11 attacks, including David Newman, an industrial hygienist with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH); Dr. Thomas Cahill, of the University of California at Davis; Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, an adjunct professor at Lehman and Hunter College, City University of New York; Alison Johnson, Chairman of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, among others. Government officials and employees were invited to participate—including officials from the EPA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the US Geological Survey, the governor’s office, state agencies, the mayor’s office and city agencies—but did not appear. “This is the first time this has happened in this type of hearing,” Hugh Kaufman, tells United Press International. [United Press International, 2/24/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/25/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Marjorie J. Clarke, PhD, Thomas Cahill, Hugh Kaufman, US Geological Service, Jerrold Nadler, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alison Johnson, Cate Jenkins, PhD., Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

Dr. David O. Carpenter from the School of Public Health at the University of Albany concludes in a detailed study that the Stuyvesant High School building “has not yet been proven safe.” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: David O. Carpenter, Stuyvesant High School

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Following the February 23 hearing (see February 21, 2002) on the environmental contamination that resulted from the attacks on the World Trade Center, EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin recommends that the EPA take immediate steps to protect the environment and health of children and young adults attending schools in and around Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

New York City School Board member Irving Hamer Jr. recommends that Stuyvesant High School’s air ducts be cleaned during its spring break beginning March 28, 2002. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School, Irving Hamer Jr.

Category Tags: Other events

Doug Lair, the supervisor of EPA On Scene Coordinator Charlie Fitzsimmon, in a letter to EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin, claims that Fitzsimmons spent only “two weeks in New York City in September” and that “he has minimal knowledge of the World Trade Center response activities conducted beyond the two weeks he spent there.” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002] This statement contradicts evidence that Fitzsimmons and another OSC were actually at the WTC site for a longer period of time (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001).

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Charlie Fitzsimmons, Doug Lair

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

The EPA’s National Ombudsman’s office publishes a report criticizing the EPA’s response to the contamination that was caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Robert J. Martin, the EPA National Ombudsman, finds that the “EPA has neither fully used its legal authorities nor its existing hazardous materials response capabilities as a leader of the National Response System to aid the victims of the terrorist attack….” [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]
Observations -
bullet The EPA “initiated the National Contingency Plan (NCP) by mobilizing EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) [from various locations in the US to work] in Lower Manhattan (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001) to sample indoor and outdoor air, dust and water to, among other things, determine the levels of contamination.”
bullet “[T]he United States Geological Survey (USGS) testified that the plume of contaminated dust from the attacks was highly caustic with pH readings at least as high as 12.1 (see September 20, 2001).”
bullet “The Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has concluded that all dust from the World Trade Center attack must be presumed to be asbestos containing material (ACM) (see January 31, 2002).”
bullet “During the last thirty years as a leader of the National Response System, EPA has used the National Contingency Plan as a framework to perform indoor air testing and remediation where there have been releases of hazardous material into homes, schools, and/or offices throughout the United States.”
Conclusions -
bullet “A clear reading of the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), leads to the reasonable conclusion that all of the material, released from the attack may be a hazardous waste.”
bullet “[A]ny cleanup of this dust, should have been and must now be performed in Ml compliance with the OSHA regulations including but not limited to 29 CFR 1910 and 1926.”
bullet “The EPA is not being honest about the presence of EPA On Scene-Coordinators in New York (see October 5, 2001) (see October 9, 2001-October 19, 2001) (see March 11th, 2002).”
bullet “EPA has not fully discharged its duties under PDD (Presidential Directive) 62 (see November 28, 2001), the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972), and the 2001 OMB Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism (see August 2001). EPA has abandoned its responsibilities for cleaning up buildings (both inside and out) that are contaminated, or that are being re-contaminated, as a result of the uncontrolled chemical releases from the World Trade Center terrorist attack.”
Recommendations -
bullet “EPA Region II should, pursuant to authorities under Presidential Directive PDD 62, and the National Contingency Plan (NCF) immediately clean the ducts and upgrade the ventilation systems to install high efficiency filtration at the Stuyvesant High School during spring break.”
bullet “EPA Region II should execute authorities under Presidential Directive PDB 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and consistent with Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, issue legal guarantees to all building owners, building managers, local businesses, the New York City Board of Education, and condominium and coop owners to protect them from assuming the costs of cleanup from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.”
bullet “Consistent with Presidential Directive PDD 62, the National Contingency Plan (NCP), and Administrator Whitman’s statement in Libby, Montana four days before the World Trade Center terrorist attack, EPA Region II should cleanup all impacted buildings (interiors and exteriors) in conjunction with corresponding remediation at ‘ground zero.’”

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Deception, The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

A New Jersey-based consultant, Uday Singh, conducts tests for toxic contaminants in various apartments and street locations, including City Hall Park, and finds a high concentration of mercury vapor. “When compared with mercury concentrations observed in non-industrial urban environments, the mercury vapor concentrations in Lower Manhattan were greater by a factor of 1,000 to 1 million,” he tells Newsday. “It points to a potential for chronic exposure, and it is important that further studies be undertaken immediately,” he adds. [Newsday, 6/6/2002]

Entity Tags: Uday Singh

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

US District Judge Richard W. Roberts extends, by five days, a temporary restraining order (see January 11, 2002) against the EPA, prohibiting the agency from implementing plans (see Morning November 27, 2001) to transfer the function of the EPA’s national ombudsman to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). [Associated Press, 4/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Roberts, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

US District Judge Richard W. Roberts vacates a temporary restraining order (see January 11, 2002) against the EPA, which had prevented the agency from transferring the function of the EPA’s national ombudsman to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) (see Morning November 27, 2001). The case is referred to the United States Office of Special Counsel. Within hours, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman and the EPA Office of Inspector General move to implement the planned changes (see Morning November 27, 2001) to the EPA National Ombudsman office. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Roberts, Christine Todd Whitman, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project collects dust samples at 150 Franklin Street at the request of one of the building’s tenants. He sends three samples to a lab which tests the dust for asbestos using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The lab finds asbestos levels of 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 percent. In September (see Shortly after September 17, 2001), the tenants had cleaned the building according to instructions provided by the city’s health department (see September 17, 2001). The building’s tenants—among them a family-run child care center—had relied on assurances from EPA and city officials that the downtown air was safe and consequently did not have the building professionally tested. After Kupferman notifies the city about these alarming results, the city tests the building using polarized light microscopy (PLM) on April 18 and does not find elevated asbestos levels. The city’s samples are retested by the EPA using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and found to have an asbestos level ranging from 2 percent to 5 percent. “We recommended that [the building] be professionally cleaned,” EPA spokesperson Mary Mears later says. [New York Daily News, 5/2/2002; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Key Events, Expert opinions/Independent studies

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) changes the locks to the office of National Ombudsman Robert Martin while he is away on official travel and sick leave. The contents of the office—computers, phones, and the files of pending cases—are removed. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin, Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman

On Earth Day, Robert Martin resigns from his position as the EPA national ombudsman in protest of the EPA’s decision to curb his autonomy by placing his office under the jurisdiction of the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG). Martin believes EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman’s decision to relocate jurisdiction of the office was caused by Martin’s criticisms (and those of his chief investigator, Hugh Kaufman) of her potential conflicts of interest in respect to a Denver Superfund Site, the Marjol Battery site in Throop, PA, and his criticism of the EPA’s response to environmental consequences following the World Trade Center attack in Lower Manhattan. In his letter of resignation, Martin accuses the EPA of concealing data regarding WTC toxic substances from residents, workers, and students in Lower Manhattan. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/23/2002; US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Hugh Kaufman, Christine Todd Whitman, Robert J. Martin

Category Tags: The Transfer of the EPA Ombudsman, Key Events

Dr. Steven Markowitz, who directed a mobile health unit targeting immigrant workers hired to clean office buildings near Ground Zero (see January 14, 2002-March 1, 2002), speaks at an immigrant labor conference at the CUNY School of Law in Flushing, New York, sharing his team’s findings. The team identified over 400 workers suffering from a variety of ailments. “One of the most striking findings is the persistence in symptoms, even after workers were no longer exposed to dust,” Dr. Markowitz reports. “Many had stopped working [near Ground Zero] two months earlier, and when they came to the van, they still had symptoms.” He says that most of the workers had symptoms consistent with the inhalation of crushed glass like chronic cough, coughing up of blood, sore throats, nasal congestion and chest pain. Other workers had symptoms that are more difficult to explain, like headaches, fatigue, dizziness and poor appetites. Markowitz admits that his team has “no idea” what the cause of those symptoms are. [Newsday, 4/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Steven Markowitz MD

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

Bruce Lippy, PhD. a certified industrial hygienist with the Operating Engineers National Hazmat Program, discusses his data with Occupational Hazards, “60 percent of our samples were greater than the EPA clearance level….” [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bruce Lippy

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) releases its “Report on Residential Air and Dust Sampling in Lower Manhattan,” which explains the agency found “low” levels of asbestos in 17.5 percent of the residential units sampled, 19.2 percent of the common area samples and 33 percent of the outdoor areas samples. But the study says there were extremely high levels of fibrous glass, which ranged from 2 to 15 percent in almost half the residential areas sampled and 64 percent of the outdoor samples. The ATSDR recommends “that people continue to conduct frequent cleaning with HEPA vacuums and damp cloths/mops to reduce the potential for exposure in accordance with NYC Department of Health (NYC DEP) guidance (see September 17, 2001).” But the NYC DEP’s instructions have been highly criticized (see September 17, 2001) (see September 22, 2001) and its recommendation to use a HEPA vacuum to remove asbestos contradicts previous EPA commissioned studies (see 1993) (see 1993). [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 5/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Government tests, Key Events

The EPA’s regional office in New York announces that the agency will assume responsibility for testing and cleaning residences south of Canal, Allen, and Pike Streets in Manhattan for asbestos contamination—if requested by the resident. The EPA claims the decision was made in order to calm residents’ fears, and that decontamination is not necessary. “While the scientific data about any immediate health risks from indoor air is very reassuring, people should not have to live with uncertainty about their futures,” says Jane Kenny, EPA regional administrator. “There is no emergency here.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file; New York Daily News, 5/9/2002 pdf file] Similarly, Mary Mears, spokeswoman for Region II of the EPA, states, “This is to assuage concerns from residents in Lower Manhattan who continue to have concerns over air in their apartments.” [United Press International, 5/9/2002]
Criticisms of the EPA's volunteer cleanup program -
bullet The EPA does not include other areas like Brooklyn, which was in the direct path of the September 11 smoke plume (see September 12, 2001), or Chinatown, whose residents have also complained of ailments they attribute to WTC contamination. [New York Daily News, 5/20/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]
bullet The EPA does not acknowledge that there is a public health emergency
bullet The program is voluntary.
bullet The EPA program targets asbestos, although the agency will also randomly test for other toxins to determine if additional measures should be taken. “We will test for asbestos in air. This is the substance of greatest concern, and air is the pathway of exposure. By cleaning up the dust, many other substances will also be removed,” an EPA public notice explains. [Environmental Protection Agency, 8/4/2003] However according to Cate Jenkins, “too few homes [are sampled] to have any statistical power to establish that these substances are not occurring elsewhere.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] A panel of experts convened by the EPA in October will agree, and suggest that the EPA conduct tests for additional toxins (see Mid-October 2002).
bullet The program is limited to private residences. Office buildings, the common areas of apartment buildings, stores and restaurants are not eligible for the program. [New York Daily News, 10/29/2002]
bullet Only apartments which appear upon visual inspection to be contaminated will qualify for cleaning. [Salon, 8/15/2003]
bullet The plan does not require that all apartments in a building be evacuated and cleaned—just those whose residents have filed requests. Consequently, recontamination and cross-contamination will occur from ventilation systems connecting cleaned and uncleaned apartments and from dust tracked in on residents’ shoes and clothing. [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Mary Mears, Jane Kenny, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Key Events, Indoor remediation

May 30, 2002: WTC Recovery Efforts End

Recovery efforts end at the World Trade Center site. [Associated Press, 5/31/2002]

Category Tags: Other events

An article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine summarizes the condition of a New York City firefighter who has contracted acute eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare disease caused by acute high dust exposure. Tests indicate that the firefighter—who worked 16-hour days for 2 weeks at the World Trade Center site—had fly ash, degraded glass, as well as chrysotile and amosite asbestos fibers in his lungs. [American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2002]

Category Tags: Documented cases WTC-related illness, Key Events

Cate Jenkins PhD, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, writes an open memo recommending that New York City residents who believe their apartments were contaminated as a result of the WTC destruction have their carpets and upholstery tested using the “Millette ultrasonication” test method, which she explains is far superior to the micro-vac method currently being recommended by the EPA. She also repeats her earlier criticism of EPA Region 2’s decision (see (September 12, 2001)) to use the 1 percent asbestos level as its “level of concern.” [Jenkins, 6/9/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Category Tags: Other events

An environmental engineer tests Stuyvesant High School’s carpets and fabrics for contamination using the ultrasonication method and finds an extremely high concentration of 60,000 to 2.5 million structures of asbestos per square centimeter in the school’s carpets. The Department of Education claims the results are “inconclusive.” [H.A. Bader Consultants, 8/2/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 8/29/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

By this time, 358 New York City firefighters and paramedics are on sick leave or light-duty because they have the “World Trade Center cough” (see November 26, 2001). [Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

At a New York Academy of Medicine briefing, doctors discuss how the environmental conditions at Ground Zero during the recovery effort have so far impacted the health of those who worked at the site. Dr. Steven Levin of the Occupational Medical Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center explains that several of the more than 1,000 workers he has seen “have developed inflammatory responses” in their lungs and adds that he has seen only a few recover. Dr. Kerry Kelly, chief medical officer for the NYC Fire Department, says that while only 3 percent of New York City firefighters had respiratory problems prior to September 11, this number has since increased to 15.6 percent. Another speaker at the briefing, Lung Chi Chen of the NYU Department of Environmental Medicine, suggests that either the pulverized glass, the high pH level (see September 20, 2001), or a combination of the two, probably causes the World Trade Center cough. “We can show that human cells can tolerate acidic exposure very well,” Chen says in an interview. “But the cell cannot tolerate alkali exposure. You shift the pH up and the impact is devastating.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Kerry Kelly, Lung Chi Chen, Stephen Levin MD

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

A panel of experts convene for two days, at the request of the EPA, and make recommendations for the EPA’s indoor cleanup program (see May 8, 2002) in Manhattan. The panel suggests expanding the testing to “include a wider array of toxic contaminants;” lowering “the EPA’s proposed danger benchmarks to take into account more vulnerable populations, such as children;” and establishing “safety standards for both residential and commercial buildings in Lower Manhattan.” [New York Daily News, 10/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Rescue/recovery workers

The EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment releases a draft document on “Exposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center Disaster” for public review. The draft report evaluates outdoor levels of various contaminants to which the public may have been exposed. The draft report also includes results from rodent respiratory toxicology studies which suggest a link between short-term exposure to WTC contaminants and mild lung inflammation and cough. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/27/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 12/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements

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

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

To date, over 1,000 New York City firefighters have filed lawsuits against the City of New York claiming that the city failed to provide them with respirators during rescue and recovery efforts at the WTC. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

The journal Chest publishes an article summarizing the case of a 37-year-old male engineer who is diagnosed with cough and dyspnea three weeks after being exposed to dust at Ground Zero. The patient’s lung biopsy contained large quantities of silicates. The authors of the study suggest “that exposure to one or more materials resulting from the WTC catastrophe may be implicated in the development of granulomatous pulmonary disease.” [B.H. et al., 1/2003]

Category Tags: Documented cases WTC-related illness, Key Events

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) completes an interim report on the EPA’s response to the environmental disaster ensuing from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003] The EPA OIG’s final report will be released in August 2003 (see August 21, 2003).

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (EPA)

Category Tags: Other events

Congress passes the 2003 omnibus spending package which contains approximately $90 million to monitor the health of workers who took part in the World Trade Center recovery effort. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which controls the money, delays giving the funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of a dispute over how to distribute the aid. [New York Daily News, 6/10/2003]

Entity Tags: US Congress, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Other events

The Stone Street apartment of Bob and Diane Van Dyke is cleaned as part of the EPA’s volunteer residential cleaning program (see September 17, 2001). “Seven workers spent four hours on the 2,200 square foot space,” Salon magazine will report. “None of them wore the waist-level air monitors [EPA spokesperson Mary] Mears insisted all crews would have as a safety precaution. No one wore facemasks, respirators, or even plastic gloves, even though the site supervisor had determined that all of the Van Dykes’ upholstered furniture, mattresses and bedding were contaminated and should be thrown out. Hot water was used to remove dust from ventilation grates; Murphy’s Oil was spread on the floors. The carpets, which remained, were not vacuumed using the wet methods prescribed on the EPA’s Web site. Neither were the drapes. HEPA vacuums were used, but when a hose abruptly popped off the machine and dust spewed onto the freshly vacuumed floor, the hose was simply reattached and the floor was not re-vacuumed. The cleaning process appeared no different from a standard housecleaning.” [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

Kathleen Callahan, an EPA assistant regional administrator, rejects the New York City firefighters union’s request to expand the EPA’s cleanup program (see May 8, 2002) for residential spaces in Lower Manhattan to four firehouses in Lower Manhattan. “We have not undertaken any cleanup of firehouses,” Callahan explains at an environmental symposium at Fordham University. “The program that we have is strictly residential and therefore, we would not do firehouses.” [Infinity Broadcasting Corp, 3/12/2003]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Kathleen Callahan

Category Tags: Other events

When asked to comment on allegations that the EPA had intentionally used testing methods incapable of detecting ultra fine particles and fibers in order not to find asbestos and other contaminants in Lower Manhattan, agency spokesperson Mary Mears tells Salon Magazine, “There are certain differences of opinion that will not be resolved.” She dismisses the fact that independent labs have found much greater levels of contamination than the EPA’s tests, arguing that the private labs may not have used precise EPA methods. She also denies that conditions in Manhattan are unsafe. “We do not agree that this is a public health concern,” she says. “We have not seen the evidence, we do not see the danger.” She explains that the volunteer program is not meant to address a safety problem, just calm the nerves of Lower Manhattan residents. “While we felt there wasn’t a big risk in the long term, we felt a need to offer something to those residents,” she said. “We do not feel this is a public-health emergency. But it goes well beyond anything that could be called a PR campaign.” [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: Mary Mears, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Government tests, Deception, Key Events

William Horgan, a certified industrial hygienist who works for Assessment Resources and Technologies, Inc., tells Salon magazine that he has found high concentrations of heavy metals in the more than 150 floors he has tested in various high-rise buildings. “I see the heavy metal contamination as equal to if not greater than the asbestos contamination,” Horgan tells Salon. “Pretty much on every floor we found one of the components: lead, cadmium or mercury.” Approximately 75 percent of Horgan’s tests indicated lead levels exceeding the US Department of Housing and Urban Development benchmark requiring lead abatement. He also found mercury in dozens of buildings. “In the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never found mercury in any of our buildings,” he notes. “Why all of a sudden would we find mercury?” [Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: William Horgan

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) releases its investigative report on the EPA’s response to the environmental consequences resulting from the collapse and burning of the World Trade Center towers. [BNA Daily Environment Report, 3/20/2003; Environmental Protection Agency, 8/21/2003 pdf file] The report, titled, “EPA’s Response to the World Trade Center Disaster Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improvement,” concludes:
bullet The agency did not have sufficient data to support its claim that air in Lower Manhattan following September 11 was “safe to breathe” (see January 5, 2006).
bullet The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) “heavily influenced” the EPA’s press releases, minimizing the risk to public health. Selected emails analyzed by OIG “indicated that CEQ dictated the content of early press releases” (see (September 12, 2001-December 31, 2001)).
bullet The EPA does not have an adequate system for reviewing and approving the content of EPA press releases.
bullet The EPA misled the public by failing to acknowledge that “health standards do not exist” for the cumulative simultaneous impact of exposure to more than one toxin and that the synergistic effects resulting from these combinations are not well-understood.
bullet The EPA Region 2 incorrectly applied AHERA and NESHAP asbestos standards as safety benchmarks when in fact these referred to the detection limits of certain testing methods (see (September 12, 2001)).
bullet The EPA failed to consider the short-term impacts of acute exposure to various toxins.
bullet The EPA lacked sufficient data on 10 of the 14 “pollutants of concern” identified by scientists as possible components of the WTC dust and debris.
bullet The EPA based its assessments on a risk standard of 1-in-10,000 for only some of carcinogenic pollutants thought to be contained in the clouds instead of the 1-in-1,000,000 acceptable-risk standard. It also ignored the agency’s traditional reliance on the 1-in-100,000 level, which usually triggers corrective action.
bullet The OIG determined there is “no evidence that EPA attempted to conceal data results from the public.” However, EPA scientist Cate Jenkins provides evidence the EPA and the City of New York DEP did in fact alter and in effect, conceal data results (see July 15, 2004).
bullet The OIG finds that the EPA should have implemented the National Contingency Program (see 1972), which would have given EPA jurisdiction over other government agencies and control over the issue of indoor air contamination. Critics of this report will argue that the EPA had in fact implemented the NCP immediately after the attacks (see After November 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality, Office of the Inspector General (EPA), Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Category Tags: Government statements, Deception, Key Events

A team of scientists from the University of California at Davis, known as the DELTA group, complete a study on the composition of the toxic gases released during fires burning at the World Trade Centers following the September 11 attacks. DELTA scientists release their report at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in New York. The study concludes that samples taken from the World Trade Center site contained four types of particles that the EPA considers harmful to human health: ultra-fine particulate matter composed of heavy metals known to cause lung damage, sulfuric acid harmful to pulmonary cells, ultra-fine glass particles that can travel through the lungs to the bloodstream and heart, and high-temperature carcinogenic organic matter. [Reuters, 9/11/2003]

Entity Tags: DELTA Group, Thomas Cahill

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies

Miriam Diamond, PhD, a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, and her colleagues obtain sample residues from the windows of nine buildings in Lower Manhattan, all located within one kilometer of the WTC disaster site. These samples are tested for polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs). Dr. Diamond and her colleagues find that PAHs, PCNs and PCBs are present in concentrations “up to 10 times greater than New York City’s normal background levels and possibly 100 times higher than surrounding rural areas.” The findings are later published in the July 1, 2004 print edition of Environmental Science and Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. [Salon, 8/15/2003; American Chemical Society, 6/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Miriam Diamond

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

The Manhattan Supreme Court orders the City of New York to pay New York City Officer Richard Lahm a tax-free disability pension, ruling that environmental conditions at Ground Zero exacerbated his tonsil cancer. Earlier in the year, Lahm retired from the 46th Precinct in the Bronx after his terminal tonsil cancer worsened. His doctors argued that toxins released at the WTC actually caused his condition. [New York Daily News, 6/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard Lahm

Category Tags: Documented cases WTC-related illness, Key Events

By this date, over 1,700 police officers and firefighters have filed lawsuits against the City of New York claiming that conditions at Ground Zero or the Fresh Kills landfill caused their illnesses, including sarcoidosis, asthma, reactive airway disorders, and chronic coughs. [New York Daily News, 6/24/2004]

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, releases a memorandum arguing that “both EPA and NYC deliberately concealed, altered, falsified, and deleted data showing asbestos levels that both EPA and NYC declared unsafe.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Category Tags: Deception

James Zadroga, a detective who worked on the recovery effort at Ground Zero following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, dies. Zadroga was 34. According to the first report into his death, by the Ocean County medical examiner, Zadroga dies from a “history of exposure to toxic fumes and dusts.” This is apparently the first death following a long-term illness related to work at the WTC site. [New York Times, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: James Zadroga

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

A report finds that the death of former New York City detective James Zadroga (see January 5, 2006) was caused by exposure to dust during rescue attempts at Ground Zero. The report, by Gerard Breton of the medical examiner’s office in Ocean County, New Jersey, says, “It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident.” Before completing the report, Breton did not consult with doctors who had tested or treated other first responders at Ground Zero, although he did talk to Zadroga’s physician. Neither did he test particles found in Zadroga’s lungs to compare them with the dust from the World Trade Center. Nevertheless, Breton says, “I cannot personally understand that anyone could see what I saw in the lungs, and know that the person was exposed to Ground Zero, and not make the same link I made.” [New York Times, 4/14/2006] His conclusion will be disputed. [New Yorker, 9/15/2008] The report may have a wider impact, as several lawsuits have been brought by first responders and downtown residents alleging that the toxic mixture of dust and fumes at Ground Zero was deadly. In addition, the report may mean Zadroga’s death should be classified as “in the line of duty,” meaning his survivors would be eligible for more benefits. [New York Times, 4/14/2006]

Entity Tags: James Zadroga, Gerard Breton

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Documented cases WTC-related illness

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