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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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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

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, appearing before Congress, states: “Under the provisions of PDD 62, signed by President Clinton in 1998, the EPA is assigned lead responsibility for cleaning up buildings and other sites contaminated by chemical or biological agents as a result of an act of terrorism. This responsibility draws on our decades of experience in cleaning up sites contaminated by toxins through prior practices or accidents.” Her deputy, Linda Fisher, will repeat this to Congress a week later (see December 5, 2001). [US Congress, 4/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency, US Congress

Category Tags: EPA's reponse, Key Events

Cate Jenkins, a 22-year veteran Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee, writes an internal memo to Robert Dellinger, Director of the Hazardous Waste Identification Division, and Lillian Bagus, Chief of the Waste Identification Branch, in which she argues that the EPA should clean NYC homes and businesses contaminated by the WTC collapse. “The cleanup of all affected homes in Lower Manhattan should be performed by EPA or other governmental bodies at public expense, utilizing the methods in the NESHAP or as proposed by certified asbestos abatement experts and approved by EPA regional NESHAP coordinators as meeting all CAA requirements,” she says. “The criteria for areas receiving such cleanups should include an adequate margin of safety, possibly relating to distance zones around contaminated areas over 0.1 percent asbestos or even lower.” Jenkins’ memo also addresses EPA official statements that have been misleading and deceptive, noting that the EPA has claimed repeatedly that asbestos levels are safe even as they report sampling results which exceed the purported maximum “safe level” of one percent. [Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file; International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert Dellinger, Environmental Protection Agency, Lillian Bagus, Cate Jenkins, PhD.

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and NYC Health Commissioner Neal Cohen hold a joint press conference in which they state that vehicles contaminated with World Trade Center dust and debris would not be returned because cleaning the vehicles would be “too difficult.” And even if cars were cleaned, safety would be “inconclusive,” they explain. [New York Times, 12/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Neal L. Cohen, M.D.

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

After the New York City Department of Health tests Tribeca Tower at 105 Duane Street for asbestos and finds nothing, the building’s residents contact Attorney Joel R Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP) for assistance. Certified industrial hygienist, Ed Olmstead, collects dusts samples for Kupferman using a micro-vac. Analysis is conducted using the highly sensitive transmission electron microscope (TEM) method. The tests results reveal high concentrations of asbestos. A sample taken from a hallway ventilation duct that circulates air throughout the building is found to contain 550,000 structures of asbestos per square centimeter. When confronted with these results, the EPA claims the hygienist’s testing method was unsound and that the results were an aberration. The landlord of the building, citing EPA and DEP assurances that the test results could be ignored, refuses to appropriately abate the building. [Jenkins, 12/3/2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 1/8/2002; Kupferman, 2003 pdf file; Salon, 8/15/2003]

Entity Tags: New York City Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Protection Agency, Ed Olmstead

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: E.B. Ilgren MD

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

An article published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, titled, “Environmental Aftermath,” suggests that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers “may have serious long term environmental health effects on those in harm’s way, including children, office workers, rescuers and residents.” It cites “asbestos, lead and PCBs (or polychlorinated biphenyls) present in the dust created by the Twin Towers collapse as among the most potentially serious lingering exposures to the community, including rescue workers, office workers and the more than 20,000 residents, and 3,000 children, who live within half a mile of Ground Zero.” [Environmental Health Perspectives, 11/2001; Environmental Health Perspectives, 12/4/2001]

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

United Press International (UPI) publishes an article on the post-911 environmental conditions in downtown Manhattan. The news agency interviews Indira Singh, a risk architect and volunteer emergency medical technician, who says “that before the terrorist attacks she was a mountain climber and a pilot and in the top physical condition of her life but since then she has a cough, onset asthma, chest pain and headaches that won’t quit.” She adds that many of her neighbors “have coughs, headaches, ugly rashes, eye infections, people coughing up blood, kidney infections, upper respiratory problems, swollen tongues and most bizarre of all about a dozen had their dental work fall out.” [United Press International, 12/7/2001]

Entity Tags: Indira Singh

Category Tags: Personal stories, Key Events

More than 100 residents gather at New York City Hall to protest the city and federal governments’ response to the WTC environmental fallout. Demonstrators are concerned that contaminated air is affecting the health of residents, students, and those working in Lower Manhattan. Peggy Sarlin of the World Trade Center Environmental Emergency Group tells NY1 News, “We are frustrated. We are very scared about our health, both short term and long term. We are angry and we intend to do something about it.” [NY1 News, 2/28/2001]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center Environmental Emergency Group, Peggy Sarlin

Category Tags: Key Events

The last of the WTC fires are finally extinguished. [ABC News, 12/19/2001]

Category Tags: Key Events

Thomas Manley, who monitors health issues for the firefighters union, tells reporters that 500 of the union’s members are on sick leave because of a variety of respiratory problems. Three hundred of them may never be able to fight fires again as a result of their medical conditions. “It’s getting worse and worse,” he says. “They’re having trouble breathing, shortness of breath, coughing with pain in their stomach.” The union claims the illnesses could have been prevented if proper respirators had been provided to firefighters working at the World Trade Center site. [NY1 News, 12/21/2001; Associated Press, 12/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Thomas Manley

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

New York City Health Commissioner Neal Cohen says the vehicles affected by dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center “are contaminated” and should be condemned. “The cleanup of them is not practical, and I’ll do whatever I can in my authority and recommend to the mayor that they be condemned,” he explains. [CBS News, 12/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Neal L. Cohen, M.D.

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

The City of New York posts the results of its transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests on air asbestos levels on the New York City Department of Environmental Protection website. The data does not match the results that had been given to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation back in November (see November 13, 2001). Test results indicating excessive asbestos levels have been either deleted or changed to “not detected.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/15/2004 pdf file]

Category Tags: Government tests, Deception, Key Events

The environmental consulting firm, H.A. Bader Associates, conducts several environmental tests at Fiterman Hall of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, (BMCC), located four blocks from the World Trade Center site (see October 1, 2001). The test results indicate “unusually high levels of dioxin in dust samples throughout the building” that are “levels 20 to 90 orders of magnitude above results from other buildings where… [the] firm has tested or cleaned in Lower Manhattan.” An EPA toxicologist who reviews the firm’s data will tell the New York Daily News in February that he believes the levels in the building are “below EPA levels of concern.” [New York Daily News, 2/7/2002 pdf file]

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

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Joe Martyak, spokesman for EPA in Administrator Christie Todd Whitman’s office, tells MSNBC that “indoor air is beyond EPA’s jurisdiction.” [MSNBC, 1/11/2002] Martyak’s assertion is contradicted by recent EPA activities and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Joe Martyak

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

Attorney Michael Barasch tells the Associated Press that he has filed legal notices on behalf of 700 firefighters and 300 police officers, fire marshals and emergency medical technicians, who have developed respiratory conditions after working at the World Trade Center disaster site. The legal notices are meant to preserve the plaintiffs’ right to sue the City of New York at a later date on the premise that the city failed to follow federal regulations and provide the appropriate respirators to the rescue workers at the disaster site. [Associated Press, 1/13/2002; Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman, 2/2002 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Michael Barasch

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow tells the Washington Post: “There is nothing we have found that is at a significant level that would say you should not come here to live or work.” [Washington Post, 1/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin agrees to investigate the World Trade Center environmental case at the request of US Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. [US Congress, 6/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Jerrold Nadler, Robert J. Martin

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

Nina Habib, an EPA spokeswoman, acknowledges that the thousands of asbestos tests performed by the EPA so far have been of outdoor air only. She asserts that the results from those tests were “indicative of what’s in people’s apartments as well.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Nina Habib

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

Bonnie Bellow, spokeswoman for the EPA’s region II office in New York tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the EPA is not responsible for testing homes and businesses. “That’s not our job and we have no policies or procedures for doing that type of testing,” she claims. “We’ve never had to worry about asbestos in houses before.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/13/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2002] Bellow’s statement is contradicted by the EPA’s record and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001).

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

A mobile health unit at Ground Zero offers free health examinations for immigrant workers and day laborers hired to clean office buildings in Lower Manhattan. The medical team, headed by Dr. Steven Markowitz, conducts pulmonary testing of workers, collects blood and urine samples, and interviews them about their work history. By March 1, the mobile unit will examine 415 workers, primarily from Colombia and Ecuador. Markowitz later tells Newsday that workers said employers had provided them with mops, rags and bags for removing inches of dust from buildings. “Most said they were not given protective equipment,” Newsday reports. Some workers who brought their own respirators said employers told them not to wear such protection.” [Newsday, 4/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Steven Markowitz MD

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

An unnamed EPA Region II spokeswoman is cited in the Downtown Express stating, “The EPA’s job was to monitor outdoor air. Monitoring indoors—that wasn’t our job. That’s what the city took care of.” This assertion is contradicted by the EPA’s record and the agency’s obligations under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) (see After November 1, 2001). According to the paper she adds that she felt the city had done a good job of testing and monitoring indoor air. [Downtown Express, 1/22/2002 pdf file; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 pdf file]

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health John L. Henshaw writes in a letter to Mr. Lowell Peterson of the law firm, Meyer, Suozzi, English and Klein, P.C., that since “materials containing asbestos were used in the construction of the Twin Towers, the settled dust from their collapse must be presumed to contain asbestos.” [US Department of Labor, 1/31/2005]

Entity Tags: John L. Henshaw, Lowell Peterson

Category Tags: Deception, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Juan Gonzales

Category Tags: Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Radhakrishnan

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Bonnie Bellow, Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Michael R. Bloomberg

Category Tags: Government statements, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: DELTA Group, Thomas Cahill

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Thomas R. Frieden

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

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

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

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

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

Entity Tags: David O. Carpenter, Stuyvesant High School

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Robert J. Martin

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

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

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, Robert J. Martin

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

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

Entity Tags: Uday Singh

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

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

Category Tags: Key Events, Expert opinions/Independent studies

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

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

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

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

Entity Tags: Steven Markowitz MD

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Bruce Lippy

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

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

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Government tests, Key Events

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

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

Category Tags: Key Events, Indoor remediation

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

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

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

Entity Tags: Stuyvesant High School

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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

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

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

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

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: Government tests, Key Events

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

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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

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

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

Category Tags: Indoor remediation, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Mary Mears, Environmental Protection Agency

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

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

Entity Tags: William Horgan

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

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

Category Tags: Government statements, Deception, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Miriam Diamond

Category Tags: Expert opinions/Independent studies, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: Richard Lahm

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

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

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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

Entity Tags: James Zadroga

Category Tags: Rescue/recovery workers, Key Events

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