Ground Zero worker health issues,
Environmental testing, Use of respirators

Main 9/11 Links Page 

Note: The EPA's assurances that the air was safe to breathe applied the neighborhoods near Ground Zero, not at Ground Zero. The EPA, OSHA, and the NYC and NYS DEP all quickly determined that the air at Ground Zero was not safe to breathe without the use of proper air filtration respirators.

It was decided early on that New York City would be responsible for enforcing the respirator use rules. The city then decided to allow the main contractors to supervise this enforcement for their workers. The result was enforcement that ranged from strict (some workers were fired for not wearing respirators) to nonexistent (in most photos, most workers aren't wearing respirators). Once respirators were available for everyone, rarely were more than half of the workers on the pile using them. Compare that to the Pentagon attack scene, where if you didn't wear a respirator, you didn't work, period.

From the numerous accounts and studies I've read (scroll down for more info), and from speaking with Ground Zero workers, the lack of use of available respirators was primarily due to these factors, in order from most important to least:

1) Lax enforcement of existing rules.

2) A culture of disregard for personal danger, combined with a compulsion to work as much as possible on the piles, that prevailed among many workers. This was reinforced by commanders and supervisors at the site who disregarded the rules, and by visitors, such as Mayor Giuliani and celebrities, who appeared at Ground Zero without respiratory protection for photo opportunities.

3) Equipment that sometimes didn't fit well, was uncomfortable to use, and that made verbal communication at the noisy site impossible except at very close range.

4) Spotty training in the fitting and proper use of respirators.

Note that there is some disagreement about when respirators were available for all workers.


New York Times Sept 11th Health Resources & Documents
The World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - World Trade Center (WTC) Health Resources
Research on Environmental Health Effects of WTC Disaster
Environmental Health Effects of WTC Disaster –Monitoring Projects

NPR Audio: Long-Term Health at Issue for Ground Zero
September 12, 2006· Two new studies suggest thousands of first-responders who toiled at Ground Zero have become victims as well. Farai Chideya talks with Dr. Gisela Banauch, a pulmonary critical-care specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and Paul Lioy, director and professor of exposure science at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, about the long-term health implications of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Q&A with NYT Health Reporter Anthony DePalma
Numerous Ground Zero environmental links
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health World Trade Center Catastrophe Worker Health Fact Sheet September 21, 2001
NYCOSH World Trade Center catastrophe safety and health links archive Dec. 2001 - Jan. 2002


Accuracy of 9/11 Health Reports is Questioned (NYT September 7, 2007)
Excerpt: "Much of what is known about the health problems of ground zero workers comes from a small clinic in Manhattan that at the time of the trade center collapse had only six full-time doctors and a tiny budget.

Yet in the weeks after 9/11, its doctors stepped into the fray in the absence of any meaningful effort by the city, state or federal government to survey, interview or offer treatment to potentially sickened recovery and cleanup workers.

Since then, the clinic, the Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, based at Mount Sinai Medical Center, has examined more than 15,000 workers and volunteers and has overseen the examination of 5,000 more at clinics elsewhere.

Those programs have received more than $100 million from the federal government for tracking and treating those workers. The clinic’s doctors published the largest and most often quoted study of recovery workers’ ills. And they have testified about the health problems before city and federal committees.

But six years after the disaster, it is clear that while the center’s efforts have been well meaning, even heroic to some, its performance in a number of important areas has been flawed, some doctors say. For years after 9/11, the clinic did not have adequate resources or time to properly collect detailed medical data on workers exposed to ground zero dust.

The clinic’s doctors presented their findings in what other experts say were scientifically questionable ways, exaggerating the health effects with imprecise descriptions of workers’ symptoms and how long they might be sick.

Researchers in this field say that the clinic’s data collection was so badly planned that its usefulness may be limited. Others say that doctors at the clinic, which has strong historical ties to labor unions, have allowed their advocacy for workers to trump their science by making statements that go beyond what their studies have confirmed.

Dr. Albert Miller, a pulmonologist who spent more than three decades at Mount Sinai before moving to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens in 1994, worries that the actions of the center’s leaders have harmed the legitimate cause of workers who might be in need of help. “They are doing the workers a disservice,” he said, “because any time you veer from objective and confirmable statements, you’re destroying your own case.”

“They are people with a cause,” Dr. Miller said.

Environmental Testing

OSHA SAMPLING RESULTS SUMMARY AS OF 10/08/2002 (Asbestos / Carbon Monoxide / Noise / Total Dust (PNOR) / Respirable Silica / Organic Compounds / Dioxins / Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons / Freon R-22, Hydrogen Fluoride & Phosgene / Inorganic Acids / Oxides of Nitrogen/Sulfur / Metals / Mercury / Ionizing Radiation)
NYC DEP Air monitoring in lower Manhattan

NYC Dept. of Health Final Report on Air and Dust Sampling in Lower Manhattan (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Executive Summary (PDF, 132 pages)
USGS, Gregory Meeker: Determination of a Diagnostic Signature for World Trade Center Dust using Scanning Electron Microscopy Point Counting Techniques
ScienceDaily: World Trade Center Dust Analysis Offers Good News For New Yorkers
Environmental Health Perspectives: Barium levels normal in WTC dust/aerosols
Toxic Legacy of September 11 (NYT Anthony DePalma Video)
Chemical stew filled the air in 2001
A Toxic Legacy Lingers as Cleanup Efforts Fall Short
Medical Views of 9/11’s Dust Show Big Gaps (NYT Oct 24, 2006)
Paul Lloy: Lessons Learned from WTC Environmental testing

Environmental Safety & Health at Ground Zero (ASSE)

Chemical Studies of 9/11 Disaster Tell Complex Tale of 'Bad Stuff' by Robert F. Service, cience 19 September 2003: Vol. 301. no. 5640, p. 1649

DNA Damage from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons Measured by Benzo[a]pyrene-DNA Adducts in Mothers and Newborns from Northern Manhattan, The World Trade Center Area, Poland, and China. F. Perera, D. Tang, R. Whyatt, S. A. Lederman, and W. Jedrychowski (2005)
Damage Assessment. 130 Liberty Street Property. Report Date: December 2003. WTC Dust Signature Report. Composition and Morphology.
Air Levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons after the World Trade Center disaster.
CHEMICAL ANALYSIS OF A DISASTER Chemical & Engineering News , Volume 81, Number 42

"The Bag" Five years later, Thomas Cahill tests the dust from a shoulder bag carried by Eric Gillin, who fled the south tower collapse.



EPA and other Government Response

OSHA/EPA National News Release September 14, 2001
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that the majority of air and dust samples monitored in New York's financial district do not indicate levels of concern for asbestos. The new samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA standards and consequently is not a case for public concern. New OSHA data also indicates that indoor air quality in downtown buildings will meet standards.

EPA has found variable asbestos levels in bulk debris and dust on the ground, but EPA continues to believe that there is no significant health risk to the general public in the coming days. Appropriate steps are being taken to clean up this dust and debris.

"Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's Financial District" said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. "Keeping the streets clean and being careful not to track dust into buildings will help protect workers from remaining debris."

OSHA staff walked through New York's Financial District on September 13th wearing personal air monitors and collected data on potential asbestos exposure levels. All but two samples contained no asbestos. Two samples contained very low levels of unknown fiber, which is still being analyzed.

Air samples taken on September 13th 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 per cent trigger for defining asbestos material.

"EPA will be deploying sixteen vacuum trucks this weekend in an effort to remove as much of the dust and debris as possible from the site where the samples were obtained" said EPA Administrator, Christine Whitman. "In addition, we will be moving six continuous air monitoring stations into the area. We will put five near ground zero and one on Canal Street. The good news continues to be that the air samples have all been at levels that cause us no concern.

EPA World Trade Center website

EPA Assured Public Before Actual Testing - (NY Newsday, Aug 28, 2003)
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, testing to monitor levels of debris dust didn't begin for 10 days - and analysis of the findings didn't become available until October. Months later EPA scientists would conclude that the dust caused lung disease in test animals - ailments that mimicked those reported in people who lived and worked near Ground Zero.

NYC DEP warned of unsafe air in neighborhood

NEW YORK (CNN) (excerpt) The city allowed people to return to Manhattan after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers even though officials were told the air was not yet safe, according to an internal memo from a New York City Health Department official.

The October 6, 2001, memo states that the city Office of Emergency Management -- called OEM -- and the Department of Environmental Protection -- referred to as DEP -- disagreed over the air quality following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. But it suggests commercial interests trumped safety concerns.

Kelly McKinney, associate commissioner of the health department, wrote that the mayor's office was under pressure from building owners and business owners to open more of the "red zone."

"According to OEM, some city blocks north and south of Ground Zero are suitable for re-occupancy. DEP believes the air quality is not yet suitable for re-occupancy. I was told the mayor's office was directing OEM to open the target areas next week," McKinney wrote.

Uncertainty Lingers Over Air Pollution in Days After 9/11 (NYT Sept. 7, 2003)
Environmental Protection Agency inspector general criticizes Christie Whitman, former administrator, for saying that air quality in Lower Manhattan was safe to breathe on days following Sept 11 attacks; says comments could not possibly have ben based on scientific fact; Whitman has said she spoke only what was known at time; insists that she was speaking correctly on Sept 18, 2001, when she said air in Lower Manhattan was 'safe to breathe'; many researchers believe that whatever her intentions, Whitman's confident words did have implications for how New Yorkers perceived environmental risks and how they viewed government's overall response to disaster.

EPA's response to the "7 Principles" letter of October 26, 2004 from members of the lower Manhattan community, labor and other organizations concerning EPA's response to the WTC disaster and the WTC Expert Panel (Nov 30, 2004)

Breathing the Air Downtown (NYT Feb. 22, 2002)
Recent hearings and analyses of air quality near the site of the World Trade Center collapse have produced some encouraging findings. The most reasonable judgment at this point is that the outside air in Lower Manhattan is safe to breathe and that indoor spaces that have been properly cleaned...

EPA Technical Review Panel Background Documents 2001-2005
EPA Response to the Peer Review of the EPA's Final Report on the World Trade Center (WTC) Dust Screening Study (Dec. 2006)

NYC DEP Notice to Building Owners Located South of 14th Street, Manhattan Building Maintenance Issues Involved in Reopening Buildings Closed Since 9/11/01 (September 16, 2001)
NYC Dept. of Health Information for Residents of Lower Manhattan
NYC Dept. of Health Air Quality, Sampling Results, Re-occupancy and Cleaning Information
NYC DoH Commissioner Thomas Friedman testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the impacts of the September 11 attack on air quality.

"300,000 Around WTC to be Studied for 20 Years" - (New York Daily News, September 6, 2003)
Some 300,000 people who lived, worked or were near Ground Zero after Sept. 11, 2001, are being asked to join an official registry to monitor any health effects from the World Trade Center debris plume.

City Announces Plan to Deal With Health Problems Relating to Ground Zero (NYT Sept. 6, 2006)
Illness Persisting in 9/11 Workers, Big Study Find (NYT Sept 6, 2006)
Officials Slow to Hear Claims of 9/11 Illnesses (NYT 9/6/06)
Congress Criticizes Federal Response to Illnesses After 9/11 and Seeks More Spending (NYT Sept 9, 2006)
Bloomberg Urges More Aid for Those Sickened After 9/11 (NYT Feb 14, 2007)

Ground Zero Victims (NYT Editorial March 2, 2007)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has finally joined the urgent campaign to get Washington to care for the responders who helped New Yorkers after the Sept. 11 attacks. Many responders — and people who studied, lived or worked around the World Trade Center — are seriously ill, and Mr. Bloomberg can play an important role in making the federal government take responsibility for them.

Mr. Bloomberg was once skeptical about what is being called ground zero disease. But he is now campaigning to get Washington to pay $150 million a year for three health centers that already treat police officers, firefighters and others made sick by the attacks. The money is badly needed to improve care in these underfinanced, overworked centers.

There should also be a fund to compensate those who have been made sick, modeled on the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. There are some private fund-raising efforts under way, including one by The New York Times Company Foundation, but the big money will have to come from the federal government. One source could be the $1 billion that Congress set aside to cover lawsuits against the city and its contractors.

Mr. Bloomberg is prepared to make it available, but only if Congress passes a law to protect the city and its contractors from negligence suits by the victims. It should do so. The victims will get more money, and sooner, from a compensation fund than if they have to pursue individual lawsuits and pay attorneys’ fees.

The entire nation was attacked on Sept. 11, not just New York. Congress and the Bush administration should be prepared to come up with the additional funds, and the legislative fixes, that are needed to compensate the victims.

Bloomberg Seeks U.S. Aid for Treatment of 9/11 Illnesses (NYT March 22, 2007)
Testifying at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pleaded for at least $150 million in annual federal aid to monitor and treat thousands of people who became ill after being exposed to dust and debris at ground zero.

The mayor also called for the creation of a special fund to compensate those who became sick, urging that the city and its contractors be protected from potentially ruinous liability as a result of lawsuits brought by rescue and recovery workers who have argued that they were not adequately protected from the environmental hazards left by the World Trade Center’s collapse.

Ex-EPA Chief Whitman Agrees to Testify (May 18, 2007)


Private / Citizen Response

9/11 Environmental Action
NRDC: The environmental impacts of the World Trade Center attacks: A preliminary assessment.
Sierra Club Report: Pollution and Deception at Ground Zero

E.P.A. Whistle-Blower Says U.S. Hid 9/11 Dust Danger (NYT Aug. 25, 2006)
(Excerpt) The scientist, who has been sharply critical of the agency in the past, claimed in a letter to members of the New York Congressional delegation this week that test reports in 2002 and 2003 distorted the alkalinity, or pH level, of the dust released when the twin towers collapsed, downplaying its danger.
Some doctors suspect that the highly alkaline nature of the dust contributed to the variety of ailments that recovery workers and residents have complained of since the attack.


Tests of the gray-brown dust conducted by scientists at the United States Geological Survey a few months after the attack found that the dust was highly alkaline, in some instances as caustic or corrosive as drain cleaner, and capable of causing severe irritation and burns.

The tests that are being challenged by the E.P.A. scientist were conducted by independent scientists at New York University. Those tests also indicated that larger particles of dust were highly alkaline. But they found that smaller dust particles -- those most likely to reach into the lower airways of the lungs, where they could cause serious illnesses -- were not alkaline and caustic.

The geological survey's tests did not differentiate the dust by particle size.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Mary Mears, said in a statement that the E.P.A. stood behind its work on ground zero environmental hazards, as did the N.Y.U. scientists. The scientist making the complaint, Cate Jenkins, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry and works in the agency's office of solid waste and emergency response, said the test results helped the E.P.A. avoid legal liability. Residents of Lower Manhattan have sued the agency in federal court, claiming that it bungled the cleanup.

Dr. Jenkins said the test reports had a costly health effect, contributing ''to emergency personnel and citizens not taking adequate precautions to prevent exposures.''

In her statement, Ms. Mears distanced the agency from Dr. Jenkins, who has worked for the E.P.A. since 1979 and has been in conflict with the agency for years over her whistle-blowing activities.

''Dr. Jenkins has not participated in any aspect of the E.P.A.'s work on the World Trade Center,'' the statement said. ''This appears to be a disagreement about scientific methods and not the validity of the results.'' The New York University scientists, who were not directly financed by the E.P.A., denied being pressured by the agency and said Dr. Jenkins's claims were without scientific merit.

...Dr. Chen said the samples tested prior to Dr. Thurston's 2002 Senate testimony and those in the 2003 report came from different batches of dust, which probably accounted for the difference in their alkalinity.

He said he was not surprised that the smaller dust particles had characteristics and alkalinity levels different from the larger ones. He explained that the larger particles were made up of building materials that had been pulverized by the pressure of the imploding towers. The smallest particles, he said, were probably a combination of crushed material and the combustion byproducts produced by high-temperature fires that burned for weeks.

Environmental Aftermath (Michael Burger, Gotham Gazette - October 22, 2001)
The hundreds of government scientists who have been testing the air in lower Manhattan have reported that there is little to worry about. Yet in the last two weeks it has become increasingly apparent, Michael Burger charges, that the scientists are not looking for precisely the right thing -- or, if they are, they are not releasing that information to the public.

Give Us Back Our Neighborhood (Madelyn Wils, LMDC. Gotham Gazette - December 10, 2001)

Residents angry, but not surprised at premature E.P.A. 9/11 air reports (Downtown Express, Aug. 19–Aug. 25, 2003)
Downtowners expressed outrage but little surprise last week at the news that the White House allegedly influenced statements the Environmental Protection Agency made soon after the collapse of the World Trade Center about air quality in Lower Manhattan.

A draft copy of findings by the independent E.P.A. inspector general revealed that a number of news releases issued by the agency were made to sound comforting on the subject of air safety, The New York Times first reported on Aug. 9. Other considerations, including national security and the desire to reopen Wall St., also swayed the E.P.A.’s communications, The Times reported.

"Migrants Did Dirty & Dangerous Work" (New York Daily News - January 11, 2002)
Contractors have plucked up to 600 illegal immigrants off street corners to scrub potentially toxic dust out of buildings near the World Trade Center - without giving the workers safety training or protective equipment, the Daily News reported today. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office is investigating labor law violations allegedly committed by several cleaning companies near the disaster site.

..."Not many were using masks, and they were getting sick," said Luz, 45, a worker who asked that her last name not be printed. "The Red Cross gave me my mask. There was dust everywhere in the rooms." Toxic substances in dust The dust likely contained low concentrations of toxic substances, including asbestos, fiberglass and lead, said David Neumann, an industrial hygienist for the committee.
When asbestos levels in dust are above a 1% "action level," the federal Clean Air Act requires strict removal and cleanup procedures to be followed, and trained asbestos cleanup companies to be used.


The Lung Specialist Who Answered the 9/11 Call (May 19, 2006) (Dr David J Prezant, New York City Fire Dept. lung specialist who attended to rescuers at World Trade Center during and after 9/11 attacks; Prezant also suffers from lung ailments from work at ground zero)
"Our Slow Death" William Keegan, PAPD night commander, GZ rescue & recovery.(NYT Op-Ed Sept. 10, 2006)
WTC Cleanup Workers File Suit Accuse Tower Leaseholder, Companies Of Failing To Protect Them
Ruling Opens a Door for Thousands of Ground Zero LawsuitsNYT Oct. 18, 2006)
NYT Op-ED Kenneth Feinberg: A Fair Deal For 9/11's Injured (Litigation. Feinberg was 9/11 Victim Fund administrator. $ NYT Dec 14, 2006)
After 9/11, Ailing Residents Find a Place to Turn (NYT Feb 21, 2007)
Groups Unite to Treat Lingering 9/11 Illnesses (7 philanthropies donating $4.3 milion. NYT Feb 25, 2007)
Book: In the Midst of Chaos: My 30 Days at Ground Zero by David Ausmus (a construction safety representative)


Use of Asbestos in the World Trade Center

Asbestos Use in the Construction of the World Trade Center
WTC Asbestos Abatement appeal: Port Auth NY & NJ v. Affiliated FM Ins. Co.
ATSDR - Asbestos - World Trade Center Full Report
Me on WTC asbestos abatement
Did the Ban on Asbestos Lead to Loss of Life? (Guy Tozzoli NYT 9/18/01)

NYC Dept. of Health Asbestos fact sheet
OSHA Asbestos Sampling Area Map - Lower Manhattan and World Trade Center
OSHA asbestos sampling sector B2: WTC & NE


Damage Assessment. 130 Liberty Street Property. Report Date: December 2003. WTC Dust Signature Report: Asbestos (excerpt) 2.1 Chrysotile Asbestos Occurrence
The collapse of the WTC and the associated mechanical pulverization of the building components, coupled with the fires and extreme heat produced by those fires, resulted in the generation of a finely fibrilized asbestos. The source of the asbestos was in part gypsum-based fireproofing in the lower floors of WTC 1, the surface coating in the elevator shafts which contained over 80% asbestos (Langer and Morse, 2001), and other miscellaneous sources such as pipe wrapping and floor tiles that were consumed in the conflagration. It has been estimated that over 300-400 tons of asbestos was used in the WTC construction and systems (NRDC, Feb. 2002).

In contrast, there were no asbestos surfacing materials in the Building, which are historically the major source of asbestos in dust in buildings. There was only a limited amount of asbestos found in carpet mastics, floor tiles, and caulking, pipe wrap and other asbestos-containing material (ACM) potentially in the Building at the time of the WTC Event.2 Other studies have found that
in New York City buildings that did not contain asbestos surfacing materials, the apparent surface concentration of asbestos in occupied areas, as determined by micro-vacuuming the surfaces, was on the order of 1,000 s/cm2 (Ewing, 2001).


Estimates of dust volume, energy of tower collapses
JREF Arkan: More dust was gypsum, not concrete. EPA samples / Hoffman / Potential/Kinetic energy calc.
Frank Greening on total volume of dust / concrete dust / momentum


Other lower Manhattan cleanup issues

NYC DEP Advisory for Building Façade Clean-up October 24, 2001

Cleaning Set for Exteriors Near September 11 Site - (NYT, Apr 6, 2002)
Within a few weeks, efforts will begin to clean the exteriors of hundreds of buildings around the World Trade Center site, to keep pollutants like asbestos from blowing off them and into apartments, city and federal officials said today. "While the streets were cleaned up, the outsides of the buildings themselves were not cleaned up," said Christie Whitman, head of the Environmental Protection Agency. She said the buildings would be cleaned using giant vacuum cleaners equipped with high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters, just as the Lower Manhattan streets were cleaned in the months after the Sept. 11 attack.

OSHA - Final Report - WTC Dust Cleaning Program [PDF 160 KB]

Cleanup of 9/11 Dust to Resume, E.P.A. Says, Despite Widespread Criticism (Voluntary indoor cleaning program for commercial buildings below Canal. $ NYT Dec. 7, 2006)

Return of WTC Cars Halted by EPA - (NY Daily News, Mar 18, 2002)
Concerns about asbestos-tainted dust have slammed the brakes on the city's plan to return hundreds of cars towed from streets around the World Trade Center to their owners. The city planned to start giving back the dust-covered vehicles today. But a report about the dangerous coating of asbestos on the cars prompted federal environmental officials to step in. Many of the cars have little body damage.

Hazardous Chemicals Were Stored In 7 World Trade - (NY1 TV Jan 20, 2002)
A new report says that dangerous chemicals were stored in 7 World Trade Center before it collapsed September 11.
Con Edison reports show the building contained 109,000 gallons of oil and hundreds of pounds of hazardous chemicals in two electrical substations operated by the utility company. The substances may have been let loose when the building fell.


Trace amounts of PCBs and large quantities of sulfuric acid are among the hazardous materials, the reports say. PCBs are suspected carcinogens, and sulfuric acid is a respiratory irritant and a possible carcinogen.

It is still unclear what happened to the chemicals during the collapse.
The Environmental Protection Agency may have cleaned up some of the pollutants. It is also possible that some of the chemicals burned off, but officials believe that scenario is unlikely. A third possibility is that the chemicals leaked into soil, groundwater and underground infrastructure.

Ground Zero Oil Leaks Need Cleanup - (New York Newsday, Jun 6, 2002)
A recent environmental report said that the Seven World Trade Center site requires ongoing environmental cleanup. The collapse of the 47-story tower there resulted in the release of 130,000 gallons of oil from the Consolidated Edison substation, while an unspecified amount of oil leaked from two damaged storage tanks formerly owned by Salomon Smith Barney.

Damage to 130 Liberty St. (Deutsche Bank/Bankers Trust Bldg.) Environmental Report
World Trade Center Dust Its Potential to Interact with Artifacts & Works of Art
Improving the Training of Skilled Support Personnel for Responding to Terrorist Actions


Other GZ safety issues

OSHA at WTC: A Dangerous Worksite
OSHA hearing: update and testimony from Ground Zero cleanup teams, Dec. 6, 2001
FDNY WTC Incident Action Plans Sept. & Oct. 2001 (Plus 1/14-1/17/02)
Injuries Few Among Crews At Towers Site NYT April 12, 2002)
After Sections of Basement Collapse, Work at a Part of the Trade Center Site Is Halted (WTC 6 progressive collapse. NYT March 12, 2002)
With Water and Sweat, Fighting the Most Stubborn Fire (NYT Nov. 19, 2001)
Draining a Hazardous Coolant Takes Caution, and a Long Hose (Freon. NYT Dec 4, 2001)
Safety Becomes Prime Concern at Ground Zero (NYT Nov 8, 2001)


Respirator use at Ground Zero

Air Masks at Issue in Claims of 9/11 Illnesses (NYT DePalma June 6, 2006) Excerpts:
With mounting evidence that exposure to the toxic smoke and ash at ground zero during the nine-month cleanup has made many people sick, attention is now focusing on the role of air-filtering masks, or respirators, that cost less than $50 and could have shielded workers from some of the toxins.

More than 150,000 such masks were distributed and only 40,000 people worked on the pile, but most workers either did not have the masks or did not use them.

These respirators are now at the center of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 8,000 firefighters, police officers and private workers who say they were exposed to toxic substances at or near ground zero that have made them sick or may eventually do so. While residents and office workers in the area also suffered ill effects, the work crews at the site who had the greatest exposure are thought to have sustained the greatest harm.

From legal documents presented in the case, a tale emerges of heroic but ineffective efforts to protect workers, with botched opportunities, confused policies and contradictions that failed to ensure their safety.

Lawyers representing the workers say that there was no central distribution point for the respirators, no single organization responsible for giving them out, and no one with the power to make sure the respirators that were distributed got used, and used properly.

By contrast, at the Pentagon, workers not wearing proper protective gear were escorted off the site.

"Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace," said David Worby, the lawyer whose firm represents the workers. "But the majority of workers at ground zero were given nothing, or had masks that didn't work."

The allegations are based on the lawyers' review of more than 400,000 pages of official documents and the testimony of 30 government witnesses.

The city, which is the principal government defendant, has moved to have the lawsuit dismissed. It argues that it and the private contractors it hired to help in the cleanup did their best to provide adequate equipment and to get workers to use it, but many workers ignored the warnings. Many workers cited reasons for not keeping the masks on, like the stifling heat and the difficulty of communicating while wearing them.

...Firefighter Doyle, now 51 and retired with mild asthma, a recurring cough and other work-related problems, said that the firefighters never thought for a second of refusing to work without respirators, but they did wonder when they were going to be available. Records produced in the lawsuit indicate that the Fire Department put in an order with the city for 5,000 P100 Organic Vapor/Acid Gas half-face masks, which cost less than $50 each, and 10,000 replacement filter cartridges on Sept. 28. But the order was not processed for almost two months.

... But perhaps the greatest impediments to compliance were the confusing guidelines and spotty enforcement efforts. Overseeing the work, and worker safety, was a horde of government entities that, at its peak, exceeded 30 city, state and federal agencies with overlapping jurisdictions and, at times, contradictory policies.

Statements from the E.P.A. about the air being safe contradicted respirator requirements.[note: The E.P.A. never decared the air safe at Ground Zero.] OSHA eventually established a green line, which it actually painted around the pile, and ordered respirators to be worn inside the green line. But in November 2001 the various government agencies and private contractors entered into a partnership: OSHA agreed not to issue fines or citations, and the contractors vowed to follow regulations.

The city, in its legal defense, says it issued advisories, distributed pamphlets and put up signs telling workers to wear respirators. But observers from unions and labor safety organizations, some using binoculars, found no more than half of the workers ever used their respirators. At times, no more than one in five workers were in compliance.

Office of Inspector General Evaluation Report No. 2003-P-00012
EPA’s Response to the World Trade Center Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas for Improvement, pp. 100-101

EPA Actions to Encourage Respirator Use

As demonstrated by a fact sheet prepared on September 11, 2001, EPA’s emergency response officials immediately recognized the need for and recommended the use of air purifying respirators at Ground Zero (a copy of this document is available on our OIG web site). EPA officials told us this fact sheet was provided to a FEMA official, but was not issued. We contacted a FEMA representative who told us that the flyer was not issued because it was decided that New York City should handle worker protection issues.

EPA also provided respirators for workers at the site. According to a May 1, 2002, letter from EPA’s Region 2 Administrator to Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), EPA had distributed 22,100 air purifying respirators and 30,500 sets of P100 particulate cartridges to New York City by September 22, 2001. Additionally, 600 respirators (MSA and 3m brand) and 2,000 cartridges (GME-P100) were provided to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health. The bulk of EPA-procured equipment was transported from EPA’s Edison facility by the New York National Guard to the New York City Office of Emergency Management for distribution to response workers.

As the rescue phase progressed, EPA emergency response officials told us they were concerned about the lack of respirator use at Ground Zero and outlined these concerns in a letter to NYCDOH dated October 5, 2001. This letter outlined the threat of potential exposure of workers to hazardous substances. The letter noted that EPA “... has recommended, and continues to recommend, that workers utilize personal protective equipment and the personal wash stations to prevent the spread of asbestos and other hazardous substances from the WTC to their homes, cars, public transportation, food service locations, etc.” The letter stated that EPA had observed very inconsistent compliance with its recommendations, but did not have the authority to enforce compliance with non-EPA/United States Coast Guard employees. The letter concluded by recommending that the Incident Commander adopt and enforce a site-wide Health and Safety Plan. A copy of the letter is in Appendix P.


Health Impacts of Lack of Respirator Use at Ground Zero
Two studies documented acute health effects suffered by emergency and construction workers at Ground Zero. A study of firefighters who responded to the collapse concluded that intense, short-term exposure to material generated during the collapse of the World Trade Center was associated with bronchial responsiveness and the development of cough. The study found that the following percentages of firefighters developed “World Trade Center cough” that was severe enough to require at least 4 weeks of medical leave:

• 8 percent of the firefighters with a high level of exposure to contaminants at the site (i.e., present at the WTC collapse).

• 3 percent of the firefighters with a moderate level of exposure to contaminants at the site (i.e., present within first 2 days after the collapse).

• 1 percent of the firefighters with a low level of exposure to contaminants at the site (i.e., present within 3-7 days of the collapse).

Initial findings of medical examinations of workers directly involved in rescue and recovery efforts also found evidence of acute health impacts. Preliminary results of these examinations released in January 2003 and reported in the Washington Post concluded that 78 percent of those sampled had suffered lung ailments and 88 percent had experienced ear, nose, and throat problems in the months immediately following the attack. Further, a September 2002 report25 by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine concluded that protection of workers at Ground Zero was “seriously inadequate.” The report noted that the response of workers in the first few hours and days after the attack without regard to their personal safety was laudable and understandable. However, according to the Mount Sinai report, a lack of enforcement of worker protection measures in the weeks and months that followed was not excusable.

EPA warned of unsafe air at Ground Zero

NEW YORK (CNN) (excerpt)
In a letter dated the day before the (October 6, 2001) memo was written, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told the city's health department that there were concerns about worker safety at the World Trade Center site.

"In addition to standard construction/demolition site safety concerns, this site also poses threats to workers related to potential exposure to hazardous substances," including building materials, hazardous materials stored in the buildings and combustion products emitted from the smoldering rubble, the letter states.

From "An MD's Report From Ground Zero"
Once Ground Zero West was fully stocked we began treating the fireman...The guys are complete animals and it was like a football game mentality…patch them up and get them back to the pit to work (mostly laceration, eye washes, inhalation, burns, etc.).

From editorial "Macho Mistakes at Ground Zero" New York Times, May 22, 2007
The evolution of this tragedy was described by Anthony DePalma in The Times and other analysts. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the twin towers, it was understandable that emergency workers would rush in in hopes of rescuing victims, and hang the precautions. But as rescue operations turned into a search for remains and then debris-removal, workers continued to ignore warnings from both city and federal officials that respirators should be worn at the site.

There was some understandable delay rounding up enough of the recommended respirators. But there was no excuse for a lag in fitting the respirators to individual faces and training the workers to use them. The more fundamental problem was that many workers hate to wear respirators because they can be uncomfortable and inhibit talking. There was also a certain macho disdain, especially when authorities were putting out mixed messages about the safety of downtown air.

By late October, only 29 percent of workers at ground zero were wearing the respirators, and even Mayor Giuliani visited without wearing one, setting a terrible example. This was a case where workers should have been protected against their own destructive instincts.

Critics often blame the federal government — particularly the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. But a federal district judge, in allowing a suit against the city and other defendants to go forward, noted that city agencies had explicitly assumed responsibility for developing and enforcing health and safety standards, including the use of respirators. The suit may shed more light on who, if anyone, can be held liable. But the clear lesson is that Mr. Giuliani’s administration failed in its duty to protect the workers at ground zero.

Excerpt from "9/11: Safety and Health Lessons Learned by Occupational Hazards"
Lesson Two: Provide PPE and Training
Appropriate half- or full-faced air-purifying respirators weren't made available to workers in adequate numbers until several weeks after the attack, says David Newman, an industrial hygienist from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). When the respirators finally became available for use, several problems emerged.

According to Newman, there already was a short history of people not wearing respirators even though they were available, creating a culture of casualness among the workers. "You had Christie Whitman from the EPA and other officials stating that the air was safe to breathe, which undermines the success of any effort to get workers to wear respirators," Newman says.

In addition, the nature of the respirators themselves was an impediment, Newman says. Not only can they be uncomfortable to wear especially when not fit-tested, which was the case at Ground Zero but the design itself didn't allow people to communicate with one another, important if a first responder has to warn others of potential dangers in the work area.

Moline says one of the lessons learned by both first responders and government agencies is the importance of training first responders on how to properly use respirators. "People were wearing respirators on their chins. They didn't know what to do with them," Moline says.

She says many of the rescue workers were not as well-trained as the firefighters, yet they were doing the same job. "We need to be aware that these people had exposures that they weren't trained for," she adds.

...Lesson Nine: Protect Workers

It is instructive to look at the management of the World Trade Center site in comparison to the Pentagon site, according to Mattei. One is a lesson in what not to do, the other in how such emergencies should be handled.

"At the Pentagon site, [the workers] abided by HAZMAT rules and the site was tightly controlled," she says. "You weren't on that pile unless you had proper safety gear on."

Howard points out one of the mistakes made at Ground Zero was to maintain the site as a rescue operation for 9 months.

"Although it's overpowering to rescue your brothers and sisters, it's over on the fourth or fifth day," he explains. "It's important to control exposure at the site because these individuals don't have their own safety on their mind when going in."

It is paramount, Howard says, to protect the workers who are doing the rescuing and recovering. Otherwise, these workers will have to deal with health issues for the rest of their lives.

Says Howard: "To me, the real take-home lesson is prevention.
9/11: Still Killing 2006 Time Magazine photo essay by Alan Tannenbaum
OSHA's Role at the World Trade Center Emergency Project, including respirator & PPE distribution
OSHA fact sheets on protection for rescue workers


Related: 9/11: Mental Health in the Wake of Terrorist Attacks (epidemic of PTSD did not occur)
9/11 Search-and-rescue Dogs Exhibit Few Effects From Exposure To Disaster Sites