Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) say that environmental monitoring at the site of the World Trade Center and the surrounding area confirms that there are no significant public health risks. However, both agencies suggest that rescue workers and nearby residents take proper safety precautions.
Residents and workers returning to buildings where dust from the Trade Center has entered the building should follow proper procedures in cleaning buildings, but the general public should feel reassured by the extensive environmental monitoring data that has been collected and analyzed. Rescue and recovery crews working on the Trade Center site should take steps to protect themselves from potential exposure to contaminants by using respirators and washing stations as recommended by EPA and OSHA.
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw confirmed that workers on the site should take appropriate steps to protect themselves, but noted there is no threat to public health.
"We have more than 200 staffers involved in a round-the-clock effort, continually monitoring conditions to ensure the safety and health of workers," said Henshaw. "It is important for workers involved in the recovery and clean-up to wear protective equipment as potential hazards and conditions are constantly changing at the site. However, our samples indicate there is no evidence of significant levels of airborne asbestos or other contaminants beyond the disaster site itself."
EPA and OSHA, working closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, along with groups like the American Industrial Hygiene Association, have been sampling the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs or bacteria that might create health hazards.
In response to public requests for more detailed information, EPA and OSHA are making the results of environmental and occupational sampling available on their Web sites at www.epa.gov and www.osha.gov, and will post additional data as it becomes available.
In addition to monitoring data taken at the World Trade Center, OSHA and EPA are providing the public with extensive additional environmental monitoring data from nearby areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Both agencies have taken hundreds of samples to monitor environmental conditions since Sept. 11, and have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.
"EPA''s Web site now has more detailed information on environmental monitoring information in New York City, and we will continue to update that site with information as it becomes available," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Our data show that contaminant levels are low or nonexistent, and are generally confined to the Trade Center site. There is no need for concern among the general public, but residents and business owners should follow recommended procedures for cleaning up homes and businesses if dust has entered."
by Sandy Smith