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Environmental Impact of 9/11 Attacks

Key Events

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

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With the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the scope of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) is extended to cover hazardous substance releases in addition to oil spills. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/23/2004] The NCP is a component of the US government’s National Response System, “a multi-layered system of individuals and teams from local, state, and federal agencies, industry, and other organizations that share expertise and resources to ensure that oil spill control and cleanup activities are timely and efficient” and that threats to human health and the environment are minimized. [Environmental Protection Agency, 4/19/2004] When in effect, the plan is administered by the EPA, which is required by law to follow specific procedures and guidelines, including designating an “On-Scene Coordinator” (OSC), who is responsible for directing response efforts and coordinating all other efforts at the scene of a discharge or release. In the event that the EPA delegates any tasks to state or local authorities, the EPA is responsible for ensuring that the response is in accordance with EPA standards. [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 300; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, EPA's reponse, Key Events

The Asbestos Work Group, a joint effort between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), concludes that “[e]xcessive cancer risks… have been demonstrated at all [asbestos] fiber concentrations studied to date. Evaluation of all available human data provides no evidence for a threshold or for a ‘safe’ level of asbestos exposure.” In very clear terms, the study adds that “there is no level of exposure below which clinical effects do not occur.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4/1980 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

The EPA issues a final rule outlining new requirements for asbestos abatement projects. The rule notes that even at low concentrations, asbestos is not safe: “Available evidence supports the conclusion that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos…. This conclusion is consistent with present theory of cancer etiology and is further supported by the many documented cases where low or short-term exposure has been shown to cause asbestos-related disease…. Most occupational studies have been conducted on populations exposed to high airborne concentrations of asbestos for long periods of time. However, short-term exposures have also been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. In addition, there are many documented cases of mesothelioma linked to extremely brief exposures to high concentrations….” [Environmental Protection Agency, 4/25/1986 pdf file; Jenkins, 6/9/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues its Interim Asbestos NESHAP Enforcement Guidance on “Friable Asbestos,” which clarifies the definition and acceptable use of “asbestos-containing” materials. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), issued in 1973, defined “asbestos-containing materials,” or ACMs, as products that contain more than 1 percent asbestos by weight. Citing the original document, the guidance explains that NESHAP’s purpose was to “ban the use of materials which contain significant quantities of asbestos, but to allow the use of materials which would (1) contain trace amounts of asbestos that occur in numerous natural substances, and (2) include very small quantities of asbestos (less than 1 percent) added to enhance the material’s effectiveness.” However, the guidance stresses, the “EPA NESHAP definition of 1 percent by weight was not established to be a health-based standard.” [Stewart, 4/18/1989 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

NESHAP regulations require use of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) method to determine whether asbestos-derived wastes are asbestos free: “Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) shall be used to analyze the output material for the presence of asbestos.” In order to be considered “asbestos-free,” TEM results must indicate that the waste contains no asbestos. [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 61.155] The TEM method is far superior to polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing, a less expensive method that is often used to test for the presence of asbestos in bulk building material. The PLM method is limited by relatively weak magnification (100-400x) and it is sometimes unable to distinguish asbestos material from other materials like tar and petroleum binding components that may also be present in the building material. As a result of these deficiencies, the PLM method cannot reliably detect asbestos at concentrations of less than 1 percent and it is incapable of detecting asbestos fibers that are less than .25 micrometers in width. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] TEM uses 20,000X or greater magnifications as well as powerful chemical (EDXA) and mineralogical (SAEDP) tools. Not only can TEM differentiate asbestos from non-asbestos fibers, but it can also distinguish one species of asbestos from another. [International Asbestos Testing Lab, 1/12/2006]

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, EPA's reponse, Key Events

The EPA issues a pamphlet answering common questions on the Asbestos NESHAP regulations (see April 18, 1989). One question asks: “Is there a numeric emission limit for the release of asbestos fibers during renovations or demolitions in the asbestos NESHAP regulation?” The EPA answers that although there is no numeric emission limit, NESHAP “does specify zero visible emissions to the outside air from activity relating to the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.” In other words, if any emissions are visible during transport or disposal, the level of asbestos is unsafe. [Environmental Protection Agency, 12/1990]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, EPA's reponse, Key Events

A study commissioned by the EPA, “Asbestos Fiber Reentrainment During Dry Vacuuming and Wet Cleaning of Asbestos-Contaminated Carpet,” finds that using HEPA vacuums and carpet shampooing in an effort to remove asbestos from carpets is ineffective and actually increases the air concentrations of asbestos. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1993; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

A study commissioned by the EPA, “Evaluation of Three Cleaning Methods for Removing Asbestos from Carpet,” finds that available methods of asbestos removal from carpets and upholstery are incapable of effectively removing the fibers. “The wet cleaning method reduced the level of asbestos contamination in the carpet by approximately 60 percent, whereas neither dry cleaning method had any notable effect on the asbestos level,” the report says. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1993; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

The EPA explains in a document setting guidelines for the decontamination of demolition sites that the “site must be cleaned up to background levels of asbestos contamination.” (The term, “background level” refers to the typical asbestos level of non-contaminated soil in that area.) The EPA adds that in order to “clean up the site to background levels, it will probably be necessary to remove all the asbestos contaminated soil. The contaminated soil should be treated and disposed of as asbestos-containing waste material.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 6/29/1994; Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

The EPA issues an advisory specifying the methodology that should be used to test for asbestos in air samples under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA). The guidance recommends that transmission electron microscopy (TEM) be used rather than the older, less sensitive polarized light microscopy (PLM) method, which cannot detect ultrafine fibers below .25 micrometers. The advisory also states that when a PLM test is negative for asbestos, the sample should be retested using the TEM method. [Environmental Protection Agency, 8/1/1994]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

The EPA designates 232 homes and businesses in Lorain County, Ohio as Superfund sites. The buildings had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by an exterminator. [Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, 9/30/1999 pdf file] The cleanup is performed by the EPA in collaboration with other federal agencies. “Many of the homes had to have wallboard, carpeting, and baseboards removed when repeated surface cleaning failed to remove trace amounts of methyl parathion,” a report in Environmental Health Perspectives explains. “Residents had to be temporarily relocated, personal items replaced, and transportation to schools and workplaces provided.” [Rubin et al., 12/2002] The cleanup cost taxpayers more than $20 million. [Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, 9/30/1999 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The current version of OSHA Regulation 1910.1001, “Polarized Light Microscopy of Asbestos—Non-Mandatory,” recommends the use of “transmission electron microscopy” (TEM) to test for the presence of asbestos instead of the older, less sensitive method, known as “polarized light microscopy” (PLM). The regulation notes that “TEM is a powerful tool to identify fibers too small to be resolved by light microscopy and should be used in conjunction with this method when necessary” and suggests that “when optical techniques [PLM] are inadequate, there is ample indication that alternative techniques [TEM and SEM] should be used for complete identification of the sample.” SEM, or “Scanning Electron Microscopy,” is another method that provides less analytical information about the asbestos fiber than TEM. [US Code, Vol. 29, sec. 1910.1001]

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

The EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) discover more than 1,100 homes in Jackson County, Mississippi that were sprayed with methyl parathion illegally by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The EPA designates the homes as Superfund sites and oversees a $50 million cleanup. More than 1,600 people will be relocated during the cleanup. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/11/1998; Rubin et al., 12/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Reuben Brown, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The EPA designates more than 98 homes in the Chicago area as a Superfund site. The homes had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The homes are decontaminated at a cost of around $7.5 million. [Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, 9/30/1999 pdf file; Rubin et al., 12/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Reuben Brown, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issues its “Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism” which reaffirms the EPA’s responsibility to respond to any hazardous materials emergencies caused by terrorist attack and provide the affected public with all information relevant to their health and safety. The report observes that the EPA has “expertise in performing off-site monitoring, extent of contamination surveys, working with health officials to establish safe cleanup levels, conducting protective cleanup actions, and communicating technical information/data to impacted citizens…” Moreover, the OMB notes that “EPA’s first responders (On-Scene Coordinators or OSCs) from all 10 regions have been actively involved with local, State, and Federal authorities in responding to threats of terrorism,” and that “EPA’s response to such threats is an extension of its existing hazardous materials response capability developed over more than 30 years as a leader of the National Response System (see 1972).” [Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002]

Entity Tags: US Congress

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

The EPA sets up more than 30 fixed air-quality monitors in and around Ground Zero as well as regional monitors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to test for the presence of certain contaminants. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] More than 30 such air monitors are also positioned at various locations in the Staten Island Landfill, where the WTC debris will be taken. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/9/2005] Additionally, both the EPA and OSHA operate portable sampling equipment to collect data from a variety of other surrounding locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 6/4/2002 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/23/2005; Environmental Protection Agency, 3/25/2005] The equipment, however, does not test the air for fiberglass, a common building material and a known carcinogen [Occupational Hazards, 1/25/2002] , or mercury in airborne dusts (although they do test for mercury in its vapor state). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] Critics will argue that monitoring outdoor air is insufficient since it will ultimately be diluted because of wind and diffusion—unlike indoor air, which clings to fabrics and is trapped within walls. [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/2002] Aside from a few exceptions (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001), the EPA will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method for counting asbestos fibers instead of electron microscope technology (see September 12, 2001) which provides far more accurate results. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The World Trade Center twin towers collapse—the south tower at 9:59 a.m. and the north tower half an hour later at 10:28 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] The collapses create huge dust clouds that roll through the streets of Lower Manhattan, breaking windows and forcing dust and debris into the interior of surrounding buildings.
Composition of dust - Chemicals and materials present in the billowing clouds include pulverized plaster, paint, foam, glass fibers and fragments, fiberglass, cement, vermiculite (used as a fire retardant instead of asbestos), chrysotile asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, pesticides, phthalate esters, brominated diphenyl ethers, cotton fibers and lint, tarry and charred wood, soot, rubber, paper and plastic. [Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Online, 9/15/2001; CNN, 11/4/2001; Lioy et al., 7/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file] The dust has an extremely high pH. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]
Distribution of dust and debris - The debris will be distributed very unevenly throughout the city because of their varying weights. Dusts containing relatively heavy components, such as pulverized concrete and glass, will settle near the World Trade Center, whereas dust containing lighter components, like asbestos, will fall to the ground in greater relative concentrations at a further distance. Heavy metals—including zinc, strontium, lead and aluminum—will also be deposited a relatively large distance away from the disaster site. [Lioy et al., 7/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]
Composition of smoke/debris plume - Combustible materials buried in the rubble of the towers provides fuel for a fire that will burn until December. Many of the materials are made of substances that when burned release highly toxic fumes. According to Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, “The debris pile acted like a chemical factory. It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids, and organics for at least six weeks.” [BBC, 9/10/2003; Reuters, 9/11/2003]
bullet The two towers contained as many as 50,000 personal computers, each containing small amounts of mercury and about 4 lbs of lead. The towers also contained roughly 300 mainframe computers. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Thousands of fluorescent lamps in the buildings contained mercury. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Thousands of chairs and other office furniture contained chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which pose dangers similar to PCBs. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]
bullet Several of the WTC’s tenants are known to have had toxic materials on site. For example, there was a Secret Service shooting range that kept millions of rounds of lead ammunition on hand. And a US Customs lab had in its inventory thousands of pounds of arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, and other toxic substances. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]
bullet Other products in the buildings included synthetic fabrics, plastics, laminates, the di-electric fluids that encase electrical cables, capacitors, electrical cable insulation and transformers. The toxins resulting from the combustion of these materials include toxic lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxins (see December 27, 2002), mercury, nickel, vandium, sulphur, PAHs, PCBs and furans. [Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]
Distribution of smoke/debris plume - The aerosol plume will move from the WTC site in Lower Manhattan directly over Brooklyn where it will drop much of its toxic debris, contaminating the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope and beyond. New York City Council member David Yassky, who is in Brooklyn campaigning on this day, will later recount in an interview with Newsday, “There was a film of dust on everything—on cars, stores, everywhere in Brooklyn Heights. If you were there, as I was, you saw several hours of debris rain down on your neighborhood.” [Newsday, 8/23/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Misuse of EPA standards, EPA's reponse, Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

A dust sample is taken by EPA employees as they flee the collapsing buildings. The samples are later tested and found to contain an asbestos level of 4.5 percent. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The 47-story WTC Building 7 collapses. It housed New York City’s emergency command center, offices of the FBI, CIA, and various commercial offices. The collapse of the building buries an electrical substation containing more than 130,000 gallons of oil from transformers and high-voltage lines—most of which contain low levels of hazardous PCBs—that provides fuel for a fire that will burn for more than three months contaminating the city’s air with a number of toxins including dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Hang, 11/26/2001; New York Daily News, 11/27/2001; New York Daily News, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; Environmental Law, 12/26/2001; Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 1/9/2002; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Misuse of EPA standards, EPA's reponse, Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says in an interview with CNN’s Larry King: “The Health Department has done tests and at this point it is not a concern. So far, all the tests we have done do not show undue amounts of asbestos or any particular chemical agent that you have to be concerned about.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

Barbara Rubin, a resident of Lower Manhattan, emails the EPA asking the agency specific questions about air quality in New York City. Rubin explains in her email that she suffers from severe asthma. She asks:
bullet “What are the parameters of the hot zone and the warm zone geographically?”
bullet “What are the current particulate matter concentrations being found right now in Manhattan versus outlying areas. How does it compare with previous counts?”
bullet “Does the sampling separately analyze primary versus secondary particulate concentrations of PM [particulate] in the air? What results have been found?”
bullet “Is anything known about what chemicals are bound to the soot and dust from such sources as the burning jet fuel, smoldering furnishings, plastics, electrical wire, fiberglass etc.?”
bullet “With regard to health issues, does the EPA have any guidelines about recommending such protections as particulate masks when PM is in excess of certain levels? As you know, the use of bronchodilators to relieve asthmatic symptoms just leaves lung tissue open for deeper invasions by more allergens and foreign bodies (PM). The resulting inflammation requires steroids and the cycle just repeats itself.” The EPA’s response directs her to the agency’s website, which does not contain the answers to her questions. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Barbara Rubin

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

During a conference call, EPA Region 8 offers Region 2 free use of 30 to 40 electron microscopes, along with analysts, to test bulk dust samples in New York City. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] EPA Region 8 has a contract with EMSL Laboratories for the microscopes, which they are using to evaluate soils at the Libby, Montana cleanup site (see (August 2001)). Region 8 says they can get twelve of the scopes to Manhattan the next day. But William Muszynski, Region 2’s Acting Administrator, rejects the offer in less than polite terms. “We don’t want you fucking cowboys here,” Muszynski is later alleged to have said. “The best thing they could do is transfer you to Alaska.” [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] Instead, the EPA and other federal and city government agencies will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see November 20, 1990) to test for the presence of asbestos fibers. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002]

Entity Tags: William Muszynski

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

The City of New York samples air at Centre and Chambers St. (7 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway) and Spruce and Gold St. (7 to 8 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway). Both of these sites are upwind from the World Trade Center disaster site. TEM tests reveal that these air samples have high levels of asbestos fibers suspended in the air—123.73 s/mm2 at Centre and Chambers St., and 157.48 s/mm2 at Spruce and Gold St. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] Neither the City of New York nor the EPA will warn residents about these alarming asbestos levels. When the city publishes results of its polarized light microscopy (PLM) tests on October 24 (see October 24, 2001), it does not include these sampling results, or even mention that tests were performed at this location. Similarly, when it publishes the results of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests on its website in early 2002 (see Early 2002), this data is again left out. However, this data is given to the State of New York on November 13 (see November 13, 2001). Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, will later suggest that the omission was intentional in order to obscure the fact that contamination was occurring considerably north of Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] The City of New York will not return to these locations to conduct additional monitoring so there is no additional data on contamination in these locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

According to documents that the City of New York later provides to New York State, between eighteen and fifty-two percent of New York City’s transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests (see November 20, 1990) performed during this period indicate asbestos levels of over 70 structures/sq. millimeter (s/mm2). Many of these high test results are based on air samples taken several blocks from Ground Zero. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] This figure is similar to the one that Walter E. Mugdan, the Regional Counsel for EPA Region 2, will provide in a speech to the New York Bar Association in January 2002. “Around 35 percent of the samples of bulk dust taken in Lower Manhattan in the first few days after the collapse exceeded the 1 percent level,” he will say.

Entity Tags: Walter Mugdan

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

Samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers indicate elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) dictates the content of EPA press releases to the EPA’s Public Information Officer in a series of emails. “100 percent of what CEQ added was added: 100 percent of what CEQ deleted was deleted,” an internal EPA investigation will later report. [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Government statements, Deception, Key Events

The EPA assigns the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the task of ensuring that Lower Manhattan homes and businesses are safe for re-occupation. The EPA is bound by the National Contingency Plan (NCP) to see that the City of New York adheres to, and enforces, all EPA standards (see 1972). [US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 300; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] The city, in turn, will leave the job of testing and cleanup to the building owners and residents themselves. Neither the city nor the EPA will inform them of the federal regulations that govern asbestos testing and abatement. Instead, the City’s health department will provide residents, landlords, and building owners with a tip sheet consisting of instructions “for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences” that is completely wrong (see September 16, 2001) (see September 17, 2001). [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hugh Granger

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues its second alert since the fall of the towers. The update, titled, “Terrorist Attack at the World Trade Center in New York City: Medical and Public Health Issues of Urgent Concern,” warns the Manhattan public: “Asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center. Tests performed indicate that asbestos may be present in an area marked by Worth St. to the North, Centre and Nassau Sts. to the East, and Exchange and Thames Sts. to the South.” [New York City Department of Health, 9/13/2001] The DOH report goes on to say that the “health risk posed by a single exposure of short duration is very low” and that the “risk to persons who have not been present in the affected area following the disaster is also thought to be extremely low.” [New York City Department of Health, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announces that the EPA is monitoring levels of airborne contaminants in and around the area of Manhattan. She says that samples so far are “reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.” The tests “found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos.” In Brooklyn, which is directly in the WTC smoke plume’s path (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), she says that “levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples… were not detectable or not of concern.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/13/2001] However, her statements contradict results from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests that were conducted the previous day (see (September 12, 2001)).

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Government tests, Deception, Key Events

Phillip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and a leading expert on occupational diseases, tells the Minnesota Star Tribune that acute exposure to dust and soot could cause bronchitis, eye injuries and asthma-like breathing difficulties in the short term. Landrigan says that workers who inhale the dust increase their risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related lung diseases, like mesothelioma, an incurable cancer. [Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Phillip Landrigan

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

EPA administrator Christie Whitman recommends that New Yorkers who evacuated their homes after the collapse of the World Trade Center “vacuum everything, including air conditioning filters, and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth,” Newsweek reports. [Newsweek, 9/14/2001; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] 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).

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The New Scientist reports concerns that Manhattan residents are at serious risk from smoke and airborne contaminants including carcinogenic asbestos. Michelle De Leo of the British Lung Foundation advises people to “minimize exposure as much as possible by avoiding the area” or by using respiratory protection. Small dust particles easily penetrate the respiratory system, collecting in remote portions of the lung, and resulting in scarring. “This impairs lung function and is permanent,” De Leo explains. “Reducing exposure as much as possible is vitally important.” Other experts warn that toxic fumes from burning furniture in the towers pose additional risks. [New Scientist, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Michelle De Leo

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Rainstorms in New York City produce run-off with “elevated PCB and dioxin levels.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/21/2001]

Category Tags: Key Events

John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, states: “Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York’s financial district. Keeping the streets clean and being careful not to track dust into buildings will help protect workers from remaining debris.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: John L. Henshaw, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman is quoted by Newsweek saying that the smoke plume at the World Trade Center disaster site is “not a health problem.” She says, “We have found particulate matter in the air, but other than being an irritant to those people who are out there breathing it deeply—that’s why people are wearing protective gear and masks—it is not a problem for the general population.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

EPA and OSHA announce that the majority of air and dust samples monitored in New York’s financial district “do not indicate levels of concern for asbestos” and that ambient air quality “meets OSHA standards.” The two agencies also say that OSHA has new data indicating that indoor air quality in downtown buildings “will meet standards.” The agencies’ conclusions are based on samples taken on September 13. “OSHA staff walked through New York’s Financial District… wearing personal air monitors and collected data on potential asbestos exposure levels. All but two samples contained no asbestos.… Air samples taken… inside buildings in New York’s financial district were negative for asbestos. Debris samples collected outside buildings on cars and other surfaces contained small percentages of asbestos, ranging from 2.1 to 3.3—slightly above the 1 percent trigger for defining asbestos material.” [Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 9/14/2001] But the EPA improperly implies that the one percent level is a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)), even though it had previously acknowledged that airborne asbestos particles are unsafe at any level (see September 14, 2001). Furthermore, its test results are not accurate, as they are based on the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method, which is incapable of identifying fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when it is present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990).

Entity Tags: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection recommends in a memo to building owners in Lower Manhattan that they use the polarized light microscopy (PLM) method to determine the asbestos contamination level in their buildings instead of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which is far more accurate (see November 20, 1990). [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman says with regard to Manhattan’s air quality, “[T]here is no reason for concern.” She says that her agency is regularly sampling airborne particles and that findings indicate that most locations have an asbestos level of less than one percent—the amount above which the EPA considers a material to be “asbestos-containing”—but notes that the highest recorded reading so far was 4.5 percent (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001)). [Newsday, 9/16/2001] But the EPA is wrong to use the one percent level as if it were a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)). Furthermore, its test results are not accurate, as they are based on the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method which is incapable of identifying fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when it is present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990).

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issues a public notice advising building owners and building maintenance managers located south of 14th Street to replace filters in air circulation systems and to run their systems on the recirculation mode until fires at the World Trade Center are extinguished. The agency also recommends that owners and managers contract professionals to test their buildings for the presence of asbestos and other hazardous materials prior to beginning cleanup by maintenance employees. If the presence of harmful contaminants are detected, they must telephone the DEP, where a staff employee will review each case and provide verbal approval. [New York City Department of Health, 9/16/2001 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

Smoke from the WTC tower collapses covers lower Manhattan on the day of 9/11, and for days afterward.Smoke from the WTC tower collapses covers lower Manhattan on the day of 9/11, and for days afterward. [Source: ABC News/ Associated Press]The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) release a joint statement asserting that the air in downtown New York City is safe to breathe. “New samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern,” the agencies claim. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/16/2001] However, the government’s statements are based on ambient air quality tests using outdated technologies. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002] Furthermore, it will later be learned that the press release was heavily edited under pressure from the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Critical passages in the original draft were either deleted or modified to downplay public health risks posed by contaminants that were released into the air during the collapse of the World Trade Center. [Environmental Protection Agency, 8/21/2003 pdf file; Newsday, 8/26/2003] In late October, the New York Daily News will obtain internal EPA documents containing information that had been withheld from the public. One document says that “dioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead, and chromium are among the toxic substances detected… sometimes at levels far exceeding federal levels.” [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001] Later, in October, it will be reported that thousands of rescue workers and residents are experiencing respiratory problems that experts attribute to the toxic smoke flume and ultra fine dust. [CNN, 10/29/2001; New York Post, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 10/30/2001; BBC, 10/31/2001]

Entity Tags: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), World Trade Center, Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Deception, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

EPA air monitors detect sulfur dioxide levels that are so elevated that “according to one industrial hygienist, they exceeded the EPA’s standard for a classification of ‘hazardous,’” the New York Daily News later reports. The EPA does not volunteer this information to the public. Rather the data is discovered in internal EPA documents that are obtained by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project through the Freedom of Information Act in October (see October 19, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]

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

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

The State of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation monitors record dioxin levels more than five times higher than normal in water discharged into the Hudson River from a sewer pipe at Rector St. Additionally, the monitors find PCBs and dioxin levels in the river’s sediment that are several times higher than figures recorded in an earlier 1993 study. The EPA does not provide the public with this information. Rather the data is found in internal EPA documents later obtained by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project through the Freedom of Information Act in October (see October 19, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York Environmental Law and Justice Project

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announces that results from further air and drinking water monitoring near the WTC site and the Pentagon indicate that there are few significant risks to public health. “We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances,” she says. “Most” of the 62 dust samples taken by the agency contained less than one percent of asbestos. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/18/2001] The EPA incorrectly uses the one percent level of ambient asbestos as if it were a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)). Moreover, the test results Whitman cites are based on the less sensitive and outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method which is incapable of identifying ultra-fine asbestos fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990). Whitman’s statement also observes that where asbestos levels have exceeded the EPA’s one percent “level of concern,” the “EPA has operated its 10 High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) vacuum trucks to clean the area and then resample.” She adds that the trucks have also cleaned the “streets and sidewalks in the Financial District in preparation for… return to business.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/18/2001] However, it is later discovered that the contractor hired to clean the streets failed to equip the vacuum trucks with the required HEPA filters. [New York Daily News, 8/14/2002; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

The EPA publishes a FAQ (frequently asked questions web page) on Environmental and Public Health issues related to the collapse of World Trade Center and Pentagon. The response to one of the questions specifically advises people not to wear respirators outside the WTC restricted area. “EPA has not detected any pollutant levels of concern in Lower Manhattan generally or at the Fresh Kills site on Staten Island, where the debris from the WTC cleanup is being taken for inspection and sorting,” the public notice explains. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/18/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Key Events

Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project speaks with several emergency workers, police officers, firefighters, union representatives, office workers and residents. According to Kupferman, “All [express] serious concerns about the health hazards they now face firsthand. Some are having trouble breathing, some wheezing and coughing. Many are suffering with severe eye irritation and headaches.” [NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, 9/22/2001]

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

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

ATC Associates of New York analyzes bulk dust samples taken from Vesey and Liberty Streets near the WTC site by Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist with the Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety organization, and Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. The first four samples tested are found to contain 10-15 percent fiberglass, an extremely high concentration. A quarter of the samples have an asbestos level of 2.1 percent. [Environmental & Toxicology International, 9/19/2001; NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, 9/22/2001; Village Voice, 9/26/2001; Newsday, 10/12/2001] Shortly after these results are made public, the New York State Department of Health warns local labs that they will lose their licenses if they process any more “independent sampling.” [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joel R Kupferman, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, ATC Associates, Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety organization (ACTS), US Department of Health and Human Services

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Business Week publishes a news report on the potential environmental and human health impact of the World Trade Center collapse. The report cites experts who challenge EPA claims that the air-quality of surrounding areas does not pose significant risks to public health. “[M]any scientists and public-health experts in New York, across the country, and in Europe counter that dust and toxic materials, not asbestos, may be the biggest threat and that the EPA’s testing is, at best, inconclusive,” the magazine reports. Part of the problem lies in lax EPA pollution limits, which experts say “are often heavily influenced by industry” and consequently much too high—“especially in an event of such unprecedented magnitude that flooded the environment with so many contaminants simultaneously.” The report goes on to say that the experts are concerned that “everyone who was in the explosions’ vicinity could have potentially suffered acute exposure from the dust and smoke and could be at risk for everything from near-term respiratory ailments to, over decades, cancer.” Richard Clapp, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, tells Business Week: “Even at low or barely detectable levels, that’s a lot of asbestos fibers and other dangerous particles going into people’s lungs. If those get lodged, they could do damage later on.” Temple University civil engineering professor William Miller notes that the trucks hauling debris away from the WTC are probably dispersing toxic debris “all over Lower Manhattan.” The article says the smallest dust particles, which are difficult to detect, are also the “most insidious” and are not filtered out by paper masks. [Business Week, 9/20/2001] Yet the EPA had explicitly stated that people living and working in the area did not need to use respirators (see September 22, 2001).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Richard Clapp, William Miller

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists begin performing tests on the dust samples collected by USGS geophysicists, Gregg Swayze and Todd Hoefen, during the previous three days (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-). Roger Clark (the astrophysicist who heads the AVIRIS program at USGS), Gregg Swayze, Todd Hoefen and Eric Livo (another USGS scientist) analyze samples in the Imaging Spectroscopy Lab and Gregory Meeker (head of the USGS’s microbeam laboratory) views samples with the scanning electron microscope and conducts energy dispersive spectroscopy. Other USGS scientists study the samples using X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, as well as chemical analysis and chemical leach testing. Within hours, the results from the various tests indicate the presence of asbestos and an “alphabet soup of heavy metals.” Each of the different techniques used to determine the chemical components of the dust “back each other up,” Swayze later explains to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Some techniques can see more than others, and we were throwing in every technique we had in house,” he says. Tests revealed the dust to be extremely alkaline with a pH of 12.1 (out of 14). [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] and that some of it was as caustic as liquid drain cleaner. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002] “We were startled at the pH level we were finding,” Swayze adds. “We knew that the cement dust was caustic, but we were getting pH readings of 12 and higher. It was obvious that precautions had to be taken to protect the workers and people returning to their homes from the dust.” Sam Vance, an environmental scientist with the EPA, sends the results to officials at the EPA, the New York health department and US Public Health Service. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Roger Clark, US Geological Service, Todd Hoefen, Steve Sutley, Joe Taggart, Eric Livo, Robert Green, Phil Hageman, Geoffrey Plumlee, Gregg Swayze, Gregory Meeker

Category Tags: Government tests, USGS assessment, Key Events

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman assures New Yorkers that environmental conditions in Manhattan—both inside and outside—are safe, and provides a summary of the tests that have so far been performed on the city’s air and drinking water.
Water - Whitman says: “As we continue to monitor drinking water in and around New York City, and as EPA gets more comprehensive analysis of this monitoring data, I am relieved to be able to reassure New York and New Jersey residents that a host of potential contaminants are either not detectable or are below the Agency’s concern levels. Results we have just received on drinking water quality show that not only is asbestos not detectable, but also we can not detect any bacterial contamination, PCBs or pesticides.” She does say however that “following one rainstorm with particularly high runoff, we did have one isolated detection of slightly elevated levels of PCBs (see September 14, 2001).”
Outdoor air - Whitman says that outdoor air sampling does not indicate the existence of significant public health risks. This claim is based on results obtained using the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see September 12, 2001) which is incapable of identifying ultra-fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990). Even though Whitman denies a significant risk to public health, she does say “seven samples taken at or near Ground Zero have had marginally higher levels of asbestos that exceed EPA’s level of concern,” and that her agency has “done a total of 101 dust samples, of which 37 were slightly over the one percent asbestos.” Whitman does not mention that the EPA’s “level of concern” is not a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)) but rather the detection limit of the polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see November 20, 1990).
Indoor air - Whitman claims, “New Yorkers and New Jerseyans need not be concerned about environmental issues as they return to their homes and workplaces.” But the EPA has no data indicating that indoor air is actually safe. The only indoor tests that have been conducted by the EPA were in the EPA’s Region 2 offices located in the Federal Building and a few neighboring buildings—and the results from several of these tests were positive for chrysotile asbestos (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001). [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/21/2001; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

The New York City Department of Health issues a press release reiterating earlier public statements regarding the air quality in Manhattan and announces that the agency has distributed over 50,000 copies of the New York City Department of Health’s recommendations for tenant re-occupancy (see September 17, 2001). The press release quotes New York City Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen, MD, who asserts that “there are no significant adverse health risks to the general public….” and “all residents and business owners should check with their building managers or owners to make sure that their buildings are safe, and have been certified for re-occupancy.” Residents and business owners who are permitted to return to their buildings “should follow Health Department recommendations to minimize exposure to dust and other particulate matter that may cause throat and eye irritation,” he says. The statement goes on to say that only people who live or work “within the general vicinity of the blast zone… and who have been approved to resume tenancy are advised to wear a dust mask while outside. Dust masks are not necessary for residents in other areas.” Tenants following the DEP’s cleanup guidelines should find it “unnecessary to wear a mask while inside buildings,” the statement says. [New York City Department of Health, 9/22/2001]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, Neal L. Cohen, M.D.

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Government statements, Key Events

EPA monitors detect elevated levels of benzene in the smoke plume from the WTC ruins that exceed OSHA’s standard for an eight-hour exposure period. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

EPA air monitors at Barclay and West Sts., Church and Dey Sts. and at Ground Zero detect lead levels three times higher than the EPA standard allows. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

Dermatologist Paul Dantzig writes to The New York Times that he is “beginning to see dermatological problems arising from the World Trade Center catastrophe, like foreign-body reactions on the skin and cutaneous infections.” He notes that the “kinds of problems that occur on the skin can also occur in the lungs,” and adds that “People who inhaled large amounts of dust and debris from the center’s collapse will be at risk of developing granulomas and fibrosis of the lungs.” He suggests that people who have been exposed to WTC contaminants be “followed medically and receive X-rays now and periodically over the next few years.” [Village Voice, 9/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Paul Dantzig

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

An EPA press release summarizes the agency’s response to the September 11 attacks under its authority pursuant the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see 1972). [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

Three of 10 samples taken by the EPA near the attack site indicate elevated levels of lead. [Washington Post, 1/8/2002]

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

After USGS scientists complete their analysis of the dust samples collected in New York City (see September 17, 2001-September 19, 2001-) —which found asbestos, an “alphabet soup of heavy metals,” and an extremely high pH level (see September 20, 2001) —the team emails the results to “all the government contacts the team had” including people at the EPA and FEMA, as well as to the federal emergency response coordinator. The EPA never informs the public of the dust’s high pH. “We anticipated that the results would have been shared with the people on the ground, those at risk, but it looks like the information never got to those who needed it,” Geoffrey Plumlee, a geochemist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [US Geological Survey, 11/27/2001; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; US Geological Survey, 10/2002 pdf file] Some scientists will suggest that the dust’s high pH is a major cause of what will come to be known as the “WTC cough” (see September 9, 2002).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Geological Service

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, USGS assessment, Key Events

Joel Shufro, Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, questions whether federal, state, and city officials are putting economic interests ahead of the health of New York Lower Manhattan residents and WTC rescue and recovery workers. He comments: “The agencies have made it a priority to get the lower Manhattan financial and stock markets up and running at any cost. In so doing, they have allowed thousands of people to be exposed to substances that haven’t even all been identified, let alone quantified.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Joel Shufro

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist with Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety, writes in the October/November edition of her newsletter, ACTS, that the EPA and NYC Department of Health are providing New Yorkers with false information. “The tests performed by federal, state, and city agencies on the dusts lying on the ground and other surfaces are incomplete and thus cannot be used to determine the hazards to anyone involved in cleaning up these dusts. The primary substance tested by these agencies was asbestos. But there are other important contaminants, such as fiberglass, fine particulates… PCB’s and dioxins. The agency’s tests did not find hazardous airborne asbestos in street air… But these air monitoring results are misleading because they do not indicate what the air levels are inside buildings, schools, and homes in the area. The dust in outdoor air samples is diluted with wind from non-contaminated areas. Indoors, the dust is contained. Disturbing indoor dust during cleaning and other activities can result in higher levels.… The New York [City] Department of Health’s website… provides advice that is typical of the major agencies. The NYC DOH says: ‘… 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.…’ This statement is false. As I stated above: there were over 30 locations in Lower Manhattan where asbestos levels were 1 percent or above, including at locations 5 to 7 blocks away from Ground Zero.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monona Rossol

Category Tags: Key Events

EPA officials distribute respirators to employees at the EPA’s Region 2 building at 290 Broadway Street after employees complain about air quality in the building. EPA spokeswoman Mary Helen Cervantes explains that the masks were distributed for the “voluntary use of those employees who might have respiratory ailments or who feel some temporary discomfort from the air,” the New York Daily News reports. [New York Daily News, 10/9/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, (BMCC), located four blocks from the World Trade Center site, reopens its campus. [Guardian, 10/4/2001; Village Voice, 12/19/2005] The school is the only school that was damaged as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center. When 7 World Trade Center collapsed, the south face of the recently renovated Fiterman Hall was destroyed. The 15-story building housed 40 classrooms, computer labs, and three floors that the college rented to private companies. The remaining portion of the school—designed to hold no more than 8,000 students—must now accommodate some 17,000. The attacks have put a tremendous strain on BMCC’s finances. The damage is estimated to be about $11.5 million. Additionally, the school will lose about $1.1 million in lost lease revenue. The school’s financial problems are compounded by the fact that $9.7 million is set to be cut from next year’s CUNY budget. [Village Voice, 12/19/2005] Shortly after returning to school, students and teachers will complain about ailments such as acquired asthma, upper-respiratory disease, chronic headaches, and itchy eyes and skin believed to be caused by air contamination that resulted from the WTC collapse and made worse by the continuing fire plume. Despite the college’s long list of problems, the media and city government will pay little attention to the school, whose student body is largely low-income people of color. Instead, the focus will be on Stuyvesant High School, an elite public school, which suffered no direct damages on September 11. By December, more than $1 million will be spent on environmental cleanup at Stuyvesant compared to only $75,000 at BMCC. [Village Voice, 12/19/2005]

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, (BMCC)

Category Tags: Key Events

EPA monitors record benzene levels from three spots around Ground Zero that are 42, 31 and 16 times higher than OSHA standards permit. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The EPA monitors record benzene levels at one location near Ground Zero 21 times higher than OSHA standards permit. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The EPA monitors record benzene levels at one location near Ground Zero that is 58 times higher than OSHA’s permissible exposure limit. This is the highest benzene reading ever recorded at the WTC site. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

The EPA publishes a summary of results from the air-monitoring program it implemented shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The summary covers the period between September 11 and September 30.
bullet “Out of a total of 442 air samples EPA has taken at Ground Zero and in the immediate area, only 27 had levels of asbestos above the standard EPA uses to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed—a stringent standard based upon assumptions of long term exposure. OSHA has analyzed 67 air samples from the same area, and all were below the OSHA workplace standard for asbestos.”
bullet “All fifty-four air samples from EPA’s four monitors in New Jersey found no [asbestos] levels above EPA’s standard. Another 162 samples were taken from EPA’s monitors at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center is being taken; only two exceeded EPA’s standard.”
bullet “Of 177 bulk dust and debris samples collected by EPA and OSHA and analyzed for asbestos, 48 had levels over 1 percent, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material. Although early samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers showed some elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals, recent results find non-detectable levels of asbestos, and PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals below the level of concern.”
bullet EPA and OSHA samples from Ground Zero and surrounding areas did not contain levels of lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper or beryllium exceeding OSHA limits.
bullet The EPA “has measured dioxin levels in and around the World Trade Center site that were at or above EPA’s level for taking action.” However, the risk from dioxin is based on long term exposure, EPA claims, adding that the agency and OSHA “expect levels to diminish as soon as the remaining fires on the site are extinguished.” The exact figures of the dioxin levels, however, are startling. More than a year later, the EPA will publish a report which includes the raw dioxin data for this period indicating that dioxins levels on some days were almost six times the highest dioxin level ever recorded in the US (see December 27, 2002).
bullet “Of the 36 samples of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) taken around Ground Zero to assist response workers in determining the appropriate level of respiratory protection, several samples have been above the OSHA standard for workers. None presented an immediate risk to workers, and the levels are expected to decline when the fires are out.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and John Henshaw, US Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for OSHA, announce that their two agencies “have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.” But later in the statement, they acknowledge that to date, “Of 177 bulk dust and debris samples collected by EPA and OSHA and analyzed for asbestos, 48 had levels over 1 percent, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material.” Additionally, they say that out “of a total of 442 air samples EPA has taken at Ground Zero and in the immediate area, only 27 had levels of asbestos above the standard EPA uses to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed….” [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, John L. Henshaw

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

HP Environmental, a Virginia law firm, releases a study concluding that there is an overwhelming concentration of ultra fine fibers—particles measuring less than half a micron in size—in the Manhattan area that have eluded the standard polarized light microscopy (PLM) techniques (see September 12, 2001) used by the EPA. The report was compiled by several scientists and industrial hygienists including Hugh Granger, Ph.D., CIH and Piotr Chmielinski, CIH of HP Environmental; Tom McKee, Ph.D. of Scientific Laboratories; Jim Millette, Ph.D. of MVA, Inc.; and George Pineda, CIH of ET Environmental. Newsweek reports that according to Granger, the study’s lead author, high concentrations of these fibers have been detected “within several blocks of Ground Zero, including inside closed and undamaged offices nearby and as high up as 36 stories.” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a leading expert on asbestos toxicity, commenting on the report’s findings, tells Newsweek, “I find this very troublesome. The smaller the particle, the more easily it can be aerosolized. And the easier job that it has penetrating right down into the very depths of the lungs.” The study is based on laboratory tests of samples collected between September 21 and 28. [Newsweek, 10/5/2001; Associated Press, 10/10/2001; Reuters, 10/15/2001; New York Magazine, 10/22/2001] The study is initially posted on the website of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). But is removed after only 5 hours. Cate Jenkins, a veteran EPA employee, will later suggest that “its removal was motivated by the fact that it conflicted with Governor Whitman’s press release of the same day (see October 3, 2001) claiming no hazardous exposures to asbestos except at Ground Zero.” [Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Phillip Landrigan, Tom McKee, Ph.D., Piotr Chmielinski, CIH, Jim Millette, Ph.D., HP Environmental, George Pineda, CIH, Hugh Granger

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

EPA Region 2 says at least four times, and the New York City Department of Health and Environmental Protection at least once, that they are using a protective standard under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to determine whether indoor and outdoor air pose a threat to public health. They assert that the standard is regularly used to determine whether it is safe for school children to return to school buildings after asbestos has been removed or abated. According to the agencies, the standard designates an asbestos level of 70 or fewer structures per square millimeter as safe. [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] For example, on a page explaining its “benchmarks, standards and guidelines established to protect public health,” the EPA states: “In evaluating data from the World Trade Center and the surrounding areas, EPA is using a protective standard under AHERA, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, to evaluate the risk from asbestos in the outdoor and indoor air. This is a very stringent standard that is used to determine whether children may re-enter a school building after asbestos has been removed or abated…. To determine asbestos levels, air filters are collected from monitoring equipment through which air in the school building has passed and viewed through a microscope. The number of structures—material that has asbestos fibers on or in it—is then counted. The measurements must be 70 or fewer structures per square millimeter before children are allowed inside.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 3/31/2005] But according to Title 40, part 763.90, of the Code of Federal Regulations, the 70 s/mm [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file] Instead, AHERA sets as the EPA’s cleanup goal an exposure level which scientists have determined has a risk level lower than the EPA’s maximum risk level of 10 [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file; Environmental Protection Agency, 1/5/2006] The significance of the two agencies’ misstatements cannot be overstated as the 70 s/mm [Jenkins, 3/11/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Environmental Protection Agency, Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Misuse of EPA standards, Key Events

New York City Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen, MD, says that despite smoky conditions in areas of Lower Manhattan, “test results from the ongoing monitoring of airborne contaminants indicate that the levels continue to be below the level of concern to public health.” [New York City Department of Health, 10/5/2001]

Entity Tags: Neal L. Cohen, M.D., New York City Department of Health

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

The New York Times reports that despite EPA assurances that dangerous levels of contamination do not exist, city residents “who have moved back into downtown homes and offices are convinced that the air is unsafe, and they say they can produce their own data about the health risks: sore throats, tongue lesions, burning eyes and ears and skin rashes.” The residents are calling for independent air testing and want the city to appoint a nonpartisan “environmental advocate” who would explain to the public how studies are being done and what their findings mean. [New York Times, 10/6/2001]

Category Tags: Key Events

Approximately 1,500 concerned downtown New York City residents skeptical of EPA assurances that the city air is safe to breathe meet in a Wall Street hotel lobby with a group of local officials to discuss the issue of air quality. Joel A. Miele Sr., the city’s commissioner of environmental protection, tells the New York Times that the government believes residents’ concerns are unfounded. [New York Times, 10/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Joel A. Miele Sr.

Category Tags: Key Events

A draft report written by Dr. Roderick Wallace of New York State Psychiatric Institute and Dr. Deborah N. Wallace of Columbia University, warns that residents of downtown Manhattan may later develop symptoms similar to “particularly acute forms of Gulf War Syndrome” because of their exposure to the contaminants released when the World Trade Center towers collapsed and burned. The report’s authors write that the collapse and fires appear “to have exposed an exceedingly large population to dioxins, dibenzofurans, related endocrine disruptors, and a multitude of other physiologically active chemicals arising from the decomposition of the massive quantities of halogenated hydrocarbons and other plastics within the affected buildings.” The expected pattern “greatly transcends a simple ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ model, and may come to resemble particularly acute forms of Gulf War Syndrome,” they say. [Wallace and Wallace, 10/8/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Deborah N Wallace, Rodrick Wallace

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

On October 9, students of Stuyvesant High School, an elite public school known for its rigorous math and science curriculum and ethnic diversity, return to class. [Associated Press, 10/19/2001; Associated Press, 10/26/2001] The two EPA On-Scene Coordinators (OSC) who took part in the decision to re-open the school (see October 5, 2001) are present for the re-opening. [Environmental Protection Agency National Ombudsman, 3/27/2002] The school is located four blocks north of the WTC site and is downwind from its smoke plume. It is also adjacent to where debris is being loaded from uncovered trucks—some 350 per day—onto barges around the clock. A week after re-opening the school, approximately 100 of the high school’s 3,200 students and teachers complain of respiratory difficulty, mysterious headaches, nausea, sore throats, and nosebleeds. Some students wear respirators to school to protect themselves. [Associated Press, 10/19/2001; Associated Press, 10/26/2001; New York Daily News, 11/1/2001; New York Daily News, 12/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School, Charlie Fitzsimmons

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

Hundreds of residents and workers in Lower Manhattan attend a public meeting at Pace University where a panel of experts discusses the potential health risks associated with post-WTC collapse air contamination. Though they provide reassurances on the issue of asbestos levels, they highlight the uncertainty over the potential impact of other contaminants. “We don’t know all the facts,” Stephen Levin MD, a panelist, notes. “We do know that the further you are from the site, the less risk you have. No one at this point can give you absolute reassurance that there is no risk.” The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project is present at the meeting and distributes an informational flier citing evidence from an independent analysis of dust samples finding that fiberglass composes 15% by weight of the bulk sample (see September 19, 2001). The flyer also warns of the effects of WTC fires spewing highly toxic combustion products, including dioxins, PCBs, furans and other cancer-causing substances. [Newsday, 10/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Stephen Levin MD, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

New York State Senator David Paterson holds a news conference in Bryant Park to highlight the need for additional environmental impact studies of the WTC collapse and fires. “There has never been a public health crisis like this in the city,” he says. [New York Daily News, 10/11/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Paterson

Category Tags: Key Events

The New York Daily News reports, “[EPA spokeswoman Bonnie] Bellow says none of the agency’s tests for the presence of asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs or bacteria have shown any evidence of any significant public health hazard.” [New York Daily News, 10/11/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Government tests, Key Events

Eric Chatfield, Ph.D., and John R. Kominsky of Chatfield Technical Consulting Limited, frequently contracted by EPA, complete a report analyzing the particulate matter found in two Manhattan apartments. The report was commissioned by the Ground Zero Task Force, whose members include US Congressman Jerrold Nadler as well as numerous state and city officials. The study found “significantly elevated” concentrations of asbestos in dust samples taken from the apartment interiors of the two buildings. The highest asbestos reading from the “low-exposure” building located at 45 Warren St was 316 structures/square mm (s/mm [Chatfield and Kominsky, 10/12/2001 pdf file; Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file] The EPA will neither comment on, nor take any action with respect to, these findings. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John R. Kominsky, Eric Chatfield, Chatfield Technical Consulting Limited

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Rich Regis, a Wall Street Journal editor, undergoes treatment for “kidney failure, a perforated colon and sepsis, a generalized infection of the body.” His doctors say that his ailments may have been caused by something he “inhaled or ingested” when he was caught in the debris storm caused by the collapse of the WTC. [New York Daily News, 10/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Rich Regis

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

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project obtains internal EPA documents containing data that the agency did not include in the monitoring results it posted on its website on October 3 (see October 3, 2001). The documents, which include hundreds of pages of daily monitoring reports, reveal that “[d]ioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead and chromium are among the toxic substances detected in the air and soil around the WTC site by Environmental Protection Agency [monitoring] equipment—sometimes at levels far exceeding federal levels.” For example, one test indicated water being discharged into the Hudson River contained chromium, copper, lead and zinc at levels “elevated to several orders of magnitude above ambient water-quality criteria for most metals.” Also included is disturbing data about the air quality. “On numerous days, sulfur dioxide readings in the air at a half-dozen sites in Lower Manhattan have been far higher than the EPA’s ambient air quality standards,” one document reveals. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001; Thomas Crosbie Media, 10/26/2001; Associated Press, 10/27/2001; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

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

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

According to a draft report (see October 29, 2001) prepared by IT Corporation of Las Vegas, there is an increase in benzene and toluene in the smoke plume emanating from the WTC North Tower Center site during this period. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/29/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: IT Corporation

Category Tags: Key Events

The City of New York posts test results for asbestos in ambient outdoor air using the polarized light microscopy (PLM) test method on the NYC Department of Environmental Protection website. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file] New York City DEP test results based on the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) testing method are not posted until early 2002 (see Early 2002).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) publishes a notice for residents of Lower Manhattan reassuring them that the DEP, in collaboration with other government agencies, is doing everything it can to protect public health. The agencies are taking samples of the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants, the statement says, and comparing them to a variety of government “benchmarks, standards and guidelines.” The notice claims that current monitoring indicates that containment levels do not represent a significant threat to public health. [NYC Department of Environmental Protection, 10/29/2001]

Entity Tags: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

Joel A. Miele, Sr., commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, claims his agency has “bent over backwards to be as conservative as possible in our testing… and there is no significant danger” to anyone’s health. “People are safe, not just at the site, but at the perimeters,” he adds. [Newsday, 10/26/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Joel A. Miele Sr.

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

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says NYC government agencies have found that environmental conditions in Lower Manhattan “are not health-threatening… what I’m told is that it is not dangerous to your health.” [New York Daily News, 10/27/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

A draft report prepared by IT Corporation of Las Vegas for the EPA’s Office of Emergency and Remedial Response says that bulk dust samples taken from the World Trade Center site were found to contain elevated concentrations of several toxic compounds including CDD/CDF, PCBs, PAHs, and metals. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/29/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: IT Corporation

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen says that almost 4,000 firefighters who have participated in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center have complained of respiratory problems, but adds that long term effects of working at Ground Zero are uncertain. “We won’t know for a long period of time if there is any long term effect. Some might lead to asthma, some might lead to lung conditions,” One firefighter has been treated for allergic alveolitis, a rare lung inflammation. Von Essen’s comments follow a Newsweek interview with Dr. David Prezant, the chief pulmonary physician for the city’s fire department. Prezant explained to the magazine that thousands of firefighters require medical care for a range of illnesses, including coughs, sinus infections, lung trauma and severe asthma. Prezant, a professor at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, has referred to these ailments collectively as the “World Trade Center cough.” [CNN, 10/29/2001; CNN, 10/29/2001; New York Post, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 10/30/2001; BBC, 10/31/2001; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David J. Prezant, Thomas Von Essen

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

Paul Bartlett, an expert on aerosols containing PCBs and dioxins at the Queens College Center, is interviewed by the New York Daily News. Dr. Bartlett feels the EPA’s response to the WTC attacks has been inadequate. “What I’ve seen of the data is troubling,” he says. “Their detection limits are aimed at threshold levels for occupational exposure. They aren’t treating this as a disaster, so they’re not asking what extent and how far are people being exposed or who is possibly being affected by the releases of chemicals. They’re just checking what emissions are exceeding regulations.” He also says the WTC site should be treated like a Superfund site. [New York Daily News, 10/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Paul Bartlett

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

A team of specialists from UC Davis, the Detection and Evaluation of Long-range Transport of Aerosols (DELTA) Group, sends the results from their first samples (see October 2, 2001-Mid-December, 2001) to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light-Source Lab. Since October 2, the group has been conducting air sampling from the roof of 201 Varick St., located one mile north-northeast of the WTC site, at the request of the Department of Energy. According to the team, data indicates that the WTC plume “in many ways [resembles] those seen from municipal waste incinerators and high temperatures processes in coal-fired power plants.” A summary report of the data concludes: “The size fractions above 1 micrometer contained finely powdered concrete gypsum, and glass, with soot-like coatings and anthropogenic metals, but little asbestos. Composition in the very fine size range (0.26 > Dp > 0.09) was dominated by sulfuric acid and organic matter, but, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their derivatives, and glasslike silicone containing aerosols.” [JOM, 12/1/2001; Dateline (Univ of Calif, Davis), 2/15/2002; Chemical and Engineering News, 2/18/2002]

Entity Tags: DELTA Group, US Department of Energy, Thomas Cahill

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Several government experts testify at a New York City Council meeting on environmental conditions following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), insists that New Yorkers living and working near the World Trade Center site are not in danger. “The vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero,” she says, repeating what earlier EPA statements have asserted. Downplaying the danger of those areas where higher asbestos levels have been found, she states—falsely (see April 18, 1989) (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004) —that “EPA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are set many times below the level at which you would expect health impacts.” She advises New Yorkers who live or work in the affected areas to “follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly (see September 17, 2001).” [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001] Another expert, Dr. Jessica Leighton, assistant city health commissioner for environmental risk assessment, similarly states that people living and working in Lower Manhattan have little to worry about. She says in response to a question whether or not “people are safe at the present level” of contamination: “As far as the science has shown us right now, that is absolutely correct.” Like Callahan, she claims that EPA standards are overly protective. “The standards or tolerance levels that are being used are very conservative,” she claims. “For example, for asbestos, we are using the standard that is used for indoor air quality for reentry into a school after asbestos removal, which is the most stringent standard, as the tolerance level or standard for outdoor air quality in the residential areas. This is also true for other substances, such as dioxins, identified at the perimeter of the site…. Moreover, these standards have been designed to include many safety factors so that acceptable levels of exposure are far below the levels at which health effects are expected to occur.” [New York City Department of Health, 11/1/2001] Joel Kupferman, executive director of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, questions the accuracy of Leighton’s and Callahan’s statements and accuses them of withholding some test results. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001] Kathryn Freed, a New York City Council Member who represents Lower Manhattan, said she was not convinced by agency assurances, noting that firemen are already showing symptoms of emphysema, a terminal disease for which there is no cure. “Just because it doesn’t reach a certain level is really irrelevant when people are sick,” says Marc Ameruso, a member of the area’s community board. [New York Daily News, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kathryn Freed, Joel R Kupferman, Kathleen Callahan, Jessica Leighton, PhD.

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

The EPA will repeatedly claim that it does not have jurisdiction or oversight over indoor tests or cleanups of residences and businesses. Critics who disagree note that:
bullet The EPA’s response to the 9/11 attacks were coordinated under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see (8:50 a.m. EST) September 11, 2001), which requires that when the EPA delegates any tasks to state or local authorities, the agency ensures that their responses are in accordance with EPA standards (see 1972). Therefore, according to the NCP, the EPA does have jurisdiction over inside air.
bullet Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, the EPA commenced the abatement of homes in Libby, Montana where a nearby mining operation had contaminated the surrounding area (see (August 2001)). Libby asbestos remediation commenced under the authority of the National Contingency Plan (NCP). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] In Libby, the highest level of asbestos found in a home was 3,658 structures per square centimeter (s/cm [Chatfield and Kominsky, 10/12/2001 pdf file; MSNBC, 1/11/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file] In December, the EPA will “fast-track” the Libby site to a place on the National Priorities List as a Superfund site after a request from Montana’s governor (see December 20, 2001). In New York, Governor Pataki will make no similar request for the areas affected by World Trade Center collapse. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]
bullet The EPA is taking responsibility for the indoor environmental conditions at numerous contaminated sites across the US, including at Herculaneum, Missouri; McFarland, California; and Kellogg, Idaho. [Congressional Office of Representative Jerrold Nadler, 1/7/2002]
bullet The EPA has decontaminated more than 1400 homes and businesses in Illinois, Mississippi, and Ohio after the buildings were illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion (see January 1995) (see April 1997) (see November 1996).

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears is quoted by Newsday: “Given the levels of asbestos we don’t think there is any kind of significant health risk for people working or living near the site. But there could be some risk to the workers who are actually on the site where the levels tend to be the highest.” [Newsday, 11/9/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mary Mears

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

David Newman, of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, interviewed by Newsday, disagrees with the EPA’s position that asbestos levels have not been high enough to pose long term health risks. “While diseases such as asbestosis result from exposure to asbestos over long periods of time, asbestos-related cancers, such as mesothelioma, which have a 10- to 40-year latency period, can develop from low-level exposure to this killing dust,” Newman explains. [Newsday, 11/9/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: David Newman

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

EPA Region 2 responds to an inquiry from a woman concerned about the asbestos levels in the building where her husband works, which is across the street from the World Trade Center site. The EPA informs her that “that the owner/manager of the building [should] follow the cleanup guidelines in the September 16 City of New York Public Notice (see September 16, 2001)…. In addition, the New York City Department of Health has a fact sheet (see September 17, 2001) on the internet… that contains recommendations for people re-occupying commercial buildings and residents re-entering their homes.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP) receives documents from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the city’s Department of Health (DOH) that had been requested through the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The request was initially denied on grounds that the documents were related to an “on-going criminal investigation.” NYELJP receives them only after an appeal and repeated demands. The documents reveal that during spot testing the DEC’s monitors became clogged with dust and were not subsequently replaced or re-set as they should have been. The documents also contain NYC DOH test results showing that some of the air monitors located in City Hall offices and other spaces in downtown Manhattan had at times been “overloaded” with dust. Instead of recalibrating the equipment and re-testing, the department simply ceased testing. Rather than inform the public about the overload dust finding, the agency listed the results as “N.A.” on its website. [Kupferman, 2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Health, New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

Sheldon Silver, a New York City Assembly Speaker (D-Manhattan), says that his office has received a “significant influx” of complaints concerning skin rashes, sinusitis and aggravated asthma from people working and living in Lower Manhattan. [New York Daily News, 11/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Sheldon Silver

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

American Medical News reports that doctors in New York City are still treating large numbers of patients for respiratory conditions stemming from the World Trade Center disaster. About one-third of all New York City firefighters have symptoms of what is now termed the “WTC cough,” typified by persistent dry unproductive coughs, wheezing, sinus irritation and shortness of breath. One-fifth of responding firefighters also complain of GERD (gastroentero reflux disease) which doctors believe may have been caused by ingesting the pulverized concrete and glass that was present in the World Trade Center dust. “What you inhale, you also swallow,” explains David J. Prezant, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department. “Your entire tongue was coated with this stuff.” Doctors believe these health problems were caused in part by the shortcomings of protective breathing masks, which are not supposed to be worn for days on end. [American Medical News, 11/26/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 9/30/2002]

Entity Tags: David J. Prezant

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

People working and living in downtown Manhattan continue to be concerned about environmental conditions. For example, one resident, Catherine McVay Hughes, tells WABC News, “Last week, in our apartment where I had sealed my windows with energy efficient duct tape and had four large air filters running non-stop and plants, I could still smell the fires burning.” Another resident, Tammy Meltzer, likewise explains: “There is a lot of dust in the air that makes your eyes swell shut when it hits you. Your throat also becomes very sore.” [WABC, 11/26/2001]

Category Tags: Personal stories, Key Events

Jessica Leighton, Ph.D., the assistant commissioner of environmental risk assessment at the New York City Department of Health, testifies before a number of committees of the New York State Assembly. She says that the department has taken a lead role in monitoring the environmental conditions near the WTC site and that there are few concerns that there will be long term effects on public health. “Some substances, such as the particulate matter from the dust or the smoke in the air, can be irritating but are not expected to have long term effects for most people,” she says. “Other substances, such as asbestos, are not expected to have short term effects, but if elevated over long periods of time can have long term effects.” [New York City Department of Health, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Jessica Leighton, PhD.

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

Kathleen Callahan, deputy regional director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, testifies before the joint New York State Assembly Committees on Environmental Conservation, Health, and Labor. She reiterates past EPA assertions that WTC contaminants pose no long term risks to local residents. “We’ve tested for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, fine particulate matter, lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxin, benzene, metals, PCBs and other chemicals and substances that could pose a threat to the public and workers at the site,” she says. “Fortunately, the vast majority of our tests find levels of these contaminants that pose no significant long term health risks to residents, business employees and visitors beyond Ground Zero. And despite recent press accounts which suggest otherwise, these findings have not changed. In fact, environmental conditions off the site have improved in recent weeks.” Callahan also says that people concerned about contamination in their homes “should follow the recommendations of the New York City Departments of Health and Environmental Protection on how to clean up properly” (see September 17, 2001). [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Kathleen Callahan

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

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