Information on Asbestos Contamination following World Trade Center Disaster  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen

 

 

The website at http://www.cbns.qc.edu is providing an essential function collecting updated information on the possibility of asbestos contamination after the catastrophe at the World Trade Center (WTC). Operated by a research institute of the City University of New York, the site has links to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the New York City Department of Health (DOH), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DOEP), the Department of Community Medicine of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and news sources including BusinessWeek online and Newsday.com

Fact sheets and press releases reveal swift and targeted action taken during the emergency by federal and city authorities. It is clear that despite the horrific conditions, the authorities have made a concerted effort to keep people informed. This includes reports provided by the DOH on air quality, environmental conditions, in-door contamination of commercial buildings and homes and inspections of affected restaurants by health officials. On September 16, a DOH press release stated: "Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, the general publicís risk for any short or long term adverse health effects are very low."

The DOEPís Notice to Building Owners advised "that air circulation systems not operated since Tuesday (September 11) must have their filters replaced before this system is restarted. Systems should be run on a recirculated air setting and not on fresh air, if possible, until the WTC fire is extinguished." It also recommended that building owners or managers ensure that competent professionals check buildings for asbestos or other hazardous materials.

The document: Health Concerns of People Who Live and Work Near the World Trade Center Disaster Site on the Mount Sinai website reiterates the advice about the use of air conditioners, recommends keeping dust out of the home (i.e. by keeping windows closed, no dry sweeping outdoors), advises that wet wiping and mopping should be used to clean dust from hard surfaces and that other dust removal should be accomplished with an HEPA (high efficiency particulate arrester) vacuum cleaner.

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reassured New Yorkers in the article: Terrorist Attacks/ Asbestos Targeted in Cleanup Effort which appeared on September 16; Christine Todd Whitman said there is no reason for concern as air and environmental monitoring show low levels of asbestos. Whatís Lurking in That Smoke, published on September 20, quotes doctors such as Richard Clapp, a professor from Boston Universityís School of Public Health. Clapp says: "Even at low or barely detectable levels, thatís a lot of asbestos fibers and other dangerous particles going into peopleís lungs. If those get lodged, they could do damage later on." The cbns website is a vital resource for all well-informed people and deserves a place in your favorites listing.

September 27, 2001

 

 

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