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Subject: Asbestos hazard at World Trade Center site

Asbestos hazard at World Trade Center site

From: Lisa Goldberg <goldkoob>
Date: Monday, October 15, 2001
This posting is submitted on behalf of Kathy Makos, OEMS,
Smithsonian Institution.

    This news report, filed by Reuters, was posted on the Duke
    University Occ-Med List and will be of interest to those
    working/living near the WTC site:

    New York - Recovery workers face "an asbestos hazard" from
    minuscule fibers of the cancer-causing mineral in the World
    Trade Center ruins, a health expert said.

    But while ultra-fine traces of asbestos have also been found in
    apartments and offices near the wreckage site, the expert said
    little risk was posed to the general public.

    "There absolutely is an asbestos hazard for the workers and I
    think everyone who's involved agrees," said asbestos expert Dr.
    Philip Landrigan, chairman of the department of community and
    preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in

    When the center was built in the early 1970s, asbestos was
    applied as insulation to steel beams up to the 39th floor of
    Tower One before a ban on the use of the mineral took effect in

    "It's quite different for the people who are in offices or in
    the community. There is no question those folks are being
    exposed to dust but so far as I can tell, the asbestos exposures
    are very low. I won't say zero, but very low," Landrigan said.

    Since the Sept. 11 attack, consistent testing by the U.S.
    Environmental Protection Agency has shown asbestos levels in
    such low concentrations it was not deemed dangerous. Tests for
    other metals were also found to be within safety levels.

    Examination of the dust by a private company found ultra-thin
    fibers, 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, inside buildings
    up to three blocks away from the site where the towers crumbled
    and more than 5,000 people killed in the attack by hijacked
    civilian aircraft.

    A report by toxicologists at the company, HP Environmental Inc.
    of Herndon, Virginia, said laboratory tests from samples
    collected Sept. 21-28 showed the destruction of the buildings
    "created an asbestos fiber size distribution not previously

    U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson this
    week pledged $5 million to examine homes and schools near the
    disaster site. The money will also be used to assess the health
    of recovery workers as asthma and other respiratory ailments
    were also a concern.

    HP Environmental principal Piotr Chmielinski said the methods of
    cleaning up dust residue in apartments, offices and schools in
    the area were especially important.

    "You do that by moist or lightly wet wiping of the surface and
    vacuuming areas only with High Efficiency Particle Air filters
    which can capture 0.3 micron particles and this way you can be
    sure the dust is not recirculated," Chmielinski said.

    The particles found measured as little as 0.25 microns in width,
    said Chmielinski, whose company oversaw toxicology after the
    1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Last month's study was
    conducted for a contractor with employees working in the rubble
    in lower Manhattan.

    Construction and engineering companies and government agencies
    with recovery workers at the disaster site known as "ground
    zero" have emphasized safety for the crews. Workers digging and
    sifting through the debris wear respiratory masks and protective

    "This is a very unusual circumstance, this is a site that
    requires very serious safety procedures. It's a very
    nontraditional environment," said Lee Benish, vice president and
    corporate spokesman for AMEC, an engineering and services
    company among those handling the debris and its removal.

    Story by Grant McCool

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:32
                 Distributed: Tuesday, October 16, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-32-001
Received on Monday, 15 October, 2001

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