!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
Mount Weather, a secret underground government installation located about 50 miles west of Washington, DC (see 1950-1962), maintains a “Civil Crisis Management” program aimed at monitoring and managing civil emergencies, such as resource shortages, labor strikes, and political uprisings. The installation is a key component of the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, which is meant to ensure the survival of the federal government in times of national emergency. “We try to monitor situations and get them before they become emergencies,” says Daniel J. Cronin, assistant director of the Federal Preparedness Agency (FPA), which is responsible for managing parts of the facility and program. As part of the program, Mount Weather collects and stores data regarding military and government installations, communications, transportation, energy and power, food supplies, manufacturing, wholesale and retail services, manpower, medical and educational institutions, sanitary facilities, population, and stockpiles of essential resources. The Progressive reports in 1976, “At the heart of the Civil Crisis Management program are two complicated computer systems called the ‘Contingency Impact Analysis System’ (CIAS) and the ‘Resource Interruption Monitoring System’ (RIMS).” The complex systems apparently interpret crisis situations, predict future outcomes, and provide possible solutions for emergencies. According to a 1974 FPA report obtained by The Progressive, CIAS and RIMS are used in close cooperation with private US companies “to develop a range of standby options, alternative programs… to control the economy in a crisis situation.” The Civil Crisis Management program is put on standby during several national anti-war demonstrations and inner city riots in 1967 and 1968. The program is activated during a 1973 Penn Railroad strike and is put to use again in 1974 when a strike by independent truckers threatens food and fuel shipments. By March 1976, the Civil Crisis Management program is being used on a daily basis to monitor potential emergencies. Senator John Tunney (D-CA) will claim in 1975 that Mount Weather has collected and stored data on at least 100,000 US citizens (see September 9, 1975). [Progressive, 3/1976]
During a flight to La Cieba, Honduras, CIA operative D.G. “Chip” Tatum is instructed to make contact with Major Felix Rodriguez, assigned by Oliver North as Tatum’s local handler. Upon arrival in La Cieba, Tatum meets Rodriguez, who then takes the crew to a CIA safe house for the night. Following dinner, Tatum and Rodriguez plan their four-month support calender. Tatum is scheduled to leave Honduras in June 1985. Tatum is instructed that in addition to flying normal MEDEVAC missions, his duties will include a covert group of missions, the control word for these missions being Pegasus, and with Pegasus missions to take priority over normal medical evacuations. Rodriguez also instructs Tatum as to his chain of command. Missions could be ordered by any of the following:
Oliver North (assistant national security advisor to the White House);
Amiram Nir (former Israeli intelligence officer (Mossad) and advisor to Vice
Felix Rodriguez (CIA). [Tatum, 1996]
Cuba has sent 25,000 doctors to developing countries—more than the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, it has almost 2,000 doctors working in 14 countries. [Xinhua News Agency (Beijing), 4/15/2000]
The Sunday Times reports that an inquiry has been launched into the behavior of Bayer, after revelations in a British trial regarding the anthrax antibiotic drug Cipro. The drug has been tested on hundreds despite the company having conducted studies which showed it reacted badly with other drugs, seriously impairing its ability to kill bacteria. These results are kept secret. Nearly half of those on whom the drug was tested at one test center develop a variety of potentially life-threatening infections, while data at other test centers is unknown. [Sunday Times (London), 5/14/2000]
The FDA endorses the use of Bayer’s Cipro drug to prevent inhalation anthrax. [Reuters, 7/28/2000] An official recommendation like this is highly unusual for the FDA. A 1997 Pentagon study of anthrax in rhesus monkeys showed that several other drugs were as effective as Cipro. The reason given for only recommending Cipro is the government wants a weapon against anthrax should it come up against a strain resistant to drugs in the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics. [New York Times, 10/21/2001] The pharmaceutical industry spent $177 million on lobbying in 1999 and 2000—more money than any other industry. The FDA has been accused of conflicts of interest with companies including Bayer. [New York Times, 11/4/2001]
Jonathan Reiner. [Source: GW Medical Faculty Associates]Vice President Dick Cheney’s doctors receive the results of a blood test, which indicate that Cheney is at serious risk of a heart attack, but a subsequent blood test carried out in response to their concerns will show there is no danger and the vice president is in fine health. Cheney has struggled with coronary disease for decades. He has suffered four heart attacks, the most recent of which occurred in November 2000. [New York Times, 10/16/2013; CBS, 10/20/2013] He had a defibrillator implanted just over two months ago. [New York Times, 7/1/2001] Early this morning, at the request of Dr. Lewis Hofmann, his White House physician, a nurse from the White House Medical Unit took a sample of his blood. This was sent to the lab at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, so the results of testing would be available by 5:00 p.m., when Dr. Jonathan Reiner, his cardiologist, is due to meet him.
Test Results Indicate 'a Medical Emergency' - The results turn out to be alarming. Sometime this afternoon, Reiner receives a call from Hofmann, who is with Cheney. Hofmann says that despite the day’s chaotic events, the blood sample made it to the lab and he has received the results of the testing. These show that Cheney’s potassium level is 6.9. A high blood concentration of potassium is called hyperkalemia and a level as high as 6.9 “is a medical emergency because it can lead to cardiac arrest,” Reiner will later explain. [Cheney and Reiner, 2013, pp. 187-188] “Potassium of 6.9 can kill you,” he will state. [CBS, 10/20/2013]
Second Blood Test Will Show that Cheney's Health Is Fine - Incredulous, the cardiologist says there must be an error. Hofmann says he thought this too, but the lab has verified the result. Hofmann asks if Cheney’s defibrillator will protect the vice president but Reiner explains that if Cheney really is hyperkalemic, it will not. Reiner suggests to Hofmann that he take another sample of blood from the vice president this evening and repeat the potassium test tonight. Cheney, though, will refuse to give another sample today (see (Between 10:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001) and instead provides one early in the morning of September 12. Testing of this sample will reveal that the concern was unwarranted and Cheney’s potassium level is normal. Reiner will explain how he believes the false alarm came about, writing, “[U]ltimately we deduced that the high potassium was simply the result of the prolonged delay in processing the sample, which ensued following the evacuation of the White House.” [Cheney and Reiner, 2013, pp. 188-189, 193-194]
Lewis Hofmann. [Source: C-SPAN]Vice President Dick Cheney refuses to have a blood sample taken, even though tests on a sample he gave this morning indicated that he is in danger of having a heart attack, and he says he will instead give a sample tomorrow morning. [Cheney and Reiner, 2013, pp. 188-189; New York Times, 10/16/2013] Cheney has a long history of heart disease and has suffered four heart attacks. [New York Times, 7/1/2001] Testing of a blood sample he gave this morning showed a potentially lethal level of potassium. If correct, this would mean he has a condition called hyperkalemia, which can lead to cardiac arrest. [New York Times, 10/16/2013] Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Cheney’s cardiologist, asked Dr. Lewis Hofmann, Cheney’s White House physician, to arrange for the potassium test to be repeated tonight (see (Late Afternoon) September 11, 2001). Consequently, while he is accompanying Cheney as the vice president is being flown by helicopter to Camp David (see Shortly After 10:00 p.m. September 11, 2001), Hofmann passes Cheney a note, informing him that he needs to provide another sample of blood. Cheney, though, refuses to do so. “Not tonight, Lew, you can have it in the morning,” he says. Whether he is aware of the results of the test on his blood sample from this morning and the possible danger he is in are unstated. [Cheney and Reiner, 2013, pp. 189] Reiner is seriously concerned about Cheney’s health. “I laid awake that night… watching the replays of the [Twin] Towers come down and now thinking that, ‘Oh great, the vice president’s gonna die tonight from hyperkalemia,’” he will later recall. [CBS, 10/20/2013] Fortunately, testing of the blood sample that Cheney provides on the morning of September 12 will show that the vice president’s potassium level is normal and the earlier test results must have been erroneous. [Cheney and Reiner, 2013, pp. 193-194]
Twenty-six hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, rescue workers pull Genelle Guzman out from the rubble. Guzman was traveling down the stairs in the North Tower when the building collapsed. She was unaware of what exactly had happened and went in and out of consciousness during her entrapment. She is rescued around noon by a man named Paul, whose exact identity is unknown. Guzman is the last survivor to be rescued from the WTC wreckage throughout the entire cleanup, and search and recovery operations. [Anderson, 9/1/2004, pp. 7-14]
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).
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 ]
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]
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]
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]
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).
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publishes a “fact sheet” on the dust and debris that blanketed surrounding streets and penetrated numerous buildings during the collapse of the World Trade Center. The first section, titled, “What is in the dust,” states only: “Dust is a mixture of very fine particles that originally made-up the materials of the WTC and the aircraft that struck it. These particles differ depending on what material the dust came from, how the dust was created, and what happened to the dust after it was released. Analysis of dust samples will provide information on components of the dust. We expect that materials that would be present would be at concentrations lower than those normally associated with health effects.” The flyer makes no effort to name the toxic chemicals and other harmful substances that were known to have been in the two towers. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 9/16/2001; Kupferman, 2003 ]
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 ; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ]
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 ; 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]
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]
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.
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.
The advisory recommends that residents and people working downtown clean homes and offices using “a wet rag or wet mop.”
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).
The advisory recommends that residents filter the air in their homes with HEPA air purifiers.
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.”
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.
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.”
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).”
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 ; New York Daily News, 11/20/2001 ; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2002 ; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ] In spite of these problems, the EPA website will link to the notice. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ] 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 ] 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]
US Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicists Gregg Swayze and Todd Hoefen fly to New York City to get calibration data from the ground that will supplement the data collected by AVIRIS (see 12:00 p.m. September 16, 2001-2:00 a.m. September 17, 2001). They collect 35 dust samples from a variety of locations around Ground Zero including window ledges, flower pots and car windshields. While “AVIRIS offers a bird’s-eye view…,” Roger Clark, a USGS astrophysicist, later explains to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “The ground samples… gave us up-close, specific information on specific points.” On September 19 they send their data to the USGS office in Denver over the Internet. The next day, scientists will begin conducting a variety of tests on the samples (see September 20, 2001). [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/10/2002]
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]
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]
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]
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 ]
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]
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 ]
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).
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
Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11
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 ]
By this date, the EPA has set up approximately 15 wash stations for personnel and vehicles with signs posted instructing rescue workers to wear respirators and to take proper safety precautions. [Environmental Protection Agency, 9/22/2001]
Monona Rossol, an industrial hygienist with Arts, Crafts, and Theater Safety, writes a press release criticizing the New York City Department of Health (DOH)‘s WTC disaster cleanup guidelines (see September 17, 2001). The press release, co-signed by the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, points out that the DOH’s guidelines could “cause people to take needless risks.” Rossol takes issue with a September 20 New York Times article which suggested that residents could adequately clean up their apartments with a $3 mask and a broom, noting that “[t]aking actions like these can damage health and may even shorten lives in the future.” She insists “methods chosen to clean homes and offices must depend on analysis of the dust and the amounts present.” [NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, 9/22/2001]
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]
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]
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]
The American Lung Association announces plans to distribute more than 10,000 cleanup kits to assist people returning to their homes. Each “Operation Return Home” kit will include recommendations (see September 17, 2001) from the city’s department of health on how to properly clean their residences as well as a dust mask and a pair of latex gloves for cleaning. [Associated Press, 9/26/2001]
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]
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 ]
Residents living close to the World Trade Center site complain of ailments they suspect are tied to airborne toxins and dust particles. For example, David Dallow, a resident of Battery Park City apartment, located roughly 100 yards away from the ruins, tells New York Magazine that every time he goes back to his apartment he gets a sore throat, a headache, and a rash. [New York Magazine, 10/22/2001]
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]
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]
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]
A team of specialists from UC Davis, known as the Detection and Evaluation of Long-range Transport of Aerosols (DELTA) Group, conducts 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. Regional meteorology will suggest that the monitoring equipment’s location at Varick Street probably receives material from the World Trade Center site about half the time. The group’s analysts use seven different techniques to analyze the data including synchrotron-induced X-ray fluorescence, scanning transmission ion microscopy and proton elastic scattering analysis, and soft beta mass measurements and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). DELTA will examine the samples for dozens of substances including carbon-based compounds from burning wood, plastic and carpets; glass shards; and asbestos. DELTA will release summary reports in December (see Early November 2001) and February (see February 11, 2002). [JOM, 12/1/2001; Dateline (Univ of Calif, Davis), 2/15/2002; Chemical and Engineering News, 2/18/2002]
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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).
“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]
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 ]
Entity Tags: Phillip Landrigan, Tom McKee, Ph.D., Piotr Chmielinski, CIH, Jim Millette, Ph.D., HP Environmental, George Pineda, CIH, Hugh Granger
Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11
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]
EPA Region 2 states in its daily monitoring notice: “The samples are evaluated against a variety of benchmarks, standards and guidelines established to protect public health under various conditions.… EPA analyzed 34 samples taken in and around Ground Zero from October 8 to October 9. All samples showed results less than 70 structures per millimeter squared, which is the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) standard for allowing children to re-enter school buildings after asbestos removal activities.” [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/3/2001] But the statement is a gross misinterpretation of AHERA (see October 3, 2001-March 1, 2004).
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 ] 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 ] 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 ; 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 ]
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]
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]
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]
Almost a month after the 9/11 attacks took place, the last federal rescue team leaves Ground Zero. Although workers still hope to find survivors, their official mission from this point on shifts to recovery. The last survivor to be rescued was Genelle Guzman, 26 hours after the collapse of the North Tower (see September 12, 2001). [9/11 Memorial, 9/12/2011]
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 ]
New York State Governor George E. Pataki announces that New York State will receive $8.5 million in federal funds. $3.5 million of the grant will be provided to the state over a period of five years for initiatives addressing any respiratory impacts of the WTC collapse. The remaining $5 million will be available immediately to support environmental monitoring in New York City, asthma surveillance, health interventions and asthma education. [New York, 10/9/2001; Associated Press, 10/10/2001]
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]
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 ]
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]
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 ]
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 ; Jenkins, 12/3/2001 ; Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 ] The EPA will neither comment on, nor take any action with respect to, these findings. [Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler, 4/12/2002 ]
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]
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 ]
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 ] New York City DEP test results based on the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) testing method are not posted until early 2002 (see Early 2002).
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 ]
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]
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 ]
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 ]
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 ]
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]
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]
The EPA uses a form letter to respond to inquiries from people who live and work in Manhattan asking how they should clean their interior spaces. The letter instructs them to follow the procedures outlined in the New York Department of Health’s September 17 advisory (see September 17, 2001). “The EPA does not have jurisdiction or oversight of indoor air quality or indoor cleanups,” the letter explains. “New York City (NYC) has the primary authority and responsibility for reoccupancy of buildings and health issues. Since you work very close to the WTC it is important that the recommendations of the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) on how to clean up be followed…. The NYCDOH fact sheet on the internet (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/alerts/wtc3.shtml) contains recommendations for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residents re-entering their homes. Should the need arise to investigate the requirements for remediation of your residence, the NYCDEP has compiled a list of asbestos investigators, remediation contractors and air monitoring firms.” [Jenkins, 7/4/2003 ]
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 ]
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]
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 ]
US District Judge Richard W. Roberts extends, by five days, a temporary restraining order (see January 11, 2002) against the EPA, prohibiting the agency from implementing plans (see Morning November 27, 2001) to transfer the function of the EPA’s national ombudsman to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). [Associated Press, 4/8/2002]
The 2003 Human Development Index—which ranks countries according to life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income—places Cuba in the 52nd position out of 175 countries. Of its closest neighbors, Haiti ranks 150th, the Dominican Republic 94th, Grenada 93rd, and Jamaica 78th. [United Nations, 2003]
Multiple sources claim that at 5:30 am on this day US warplanes drop three bombs on the Central Health Center in Fallujah, killing 35 patients and 15 health workers. The attack further incapacitates Fallujah’s medical infrastructure which is already degraded because of the US military’s takeover of the city’s main hospital and because the city’s water supply was cut off before the siege. [Nation, 11/24/2004]
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]
The California Nurses Association (CNA) releases the results of a study which found “a national single-payer style health care reform system would provide a major stimulus for the US economy by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the US economy.” The study was conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a “non-profit policy and research group” that is “the exclusive research arm of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.” In addition to the growth in jobs and revenues generated by covering the 47 million Americans who were uninsured as of 2006, the study also found that universal coverage “could be achieved for $63 billion beyond the current $2.1 trillion in direct health care spending,” according to the press release for the study, which also notes that this figure is “six times less than the federal bailout for CitiGroup, and less than half the federal bailout for AIG.” [CalNurses.org, 1/14/2009]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.