OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
EPA AND OSHA WEB SITES PROVIDE ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING DATA FROM WORLD TRADE CENTER AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Data Confirms No Significant Public Health Risks;
Rescue Crews and Nearby Residents Should Take Appropriate Precautions
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman and U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) John Henshaw announced today that both federal agencies are providing the public with extensive additional environmental monitoring data from the World Trade Center site and nearby areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Both agencies have taken hundreds of samples to monitor environmental conditions since September 11, and have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.
In response to public requests for more detailed information, EPA and OSHA are making the results of environmental and occupational sampling available on their sites on the World Wide Web (www.epa.gov and www.osha.gov), and will post additional data as it becomes available.
EPA and OSHA, working closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, have been sampling the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs, or bacteria that might create health hazards. They have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents or visitors to the New York metropolitan area.
"EPA's website now has more detailed information on environmental monitoring information in New York City that should be very reassuring to residents, tourists and workers, and we will continue to update that site with information as it becomes available" said EPA Administrator Whitman. "Our data show that contaminant levels are low or nonexistent, and are generally confined to the Trade Center site. There is no need for concern among the general public, but residents and business owners should follow recommended procedures for cleaning up homes and businesses if dust has entered."
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw confirmed that workers on the site should take appropriate steps to protect themselves, but there is no threat to public health. "We have more than 200 staffers involved in a round-the-clock effort, continually monitoring conditions to ensure the safety and health of workers," Administrator Henshaw said. "It is important for workers involved in the recovery and clean-up to wear protective equipment as potential hazards and conditions are constantly changing at the site; however, our samples indicate there is no evidence of significant levels of airborne asbestos or other contaminants beyond the disaster site itself."
On the whole, despite questions about potential contaminants from the Trade Center site, EPA and OSHA data indicates there is no cause for general public concern. Residents and workers returning to buildings where dust from the Trade Center has entered the building should follow proper procedures in cleaning buildings, but the general public should feel very reassured about the extensive environmental monitoring data that has been collected and analyzed. Rescue and recovery crews working on the Trade Center site should take steps to protect themselves from potential exposure to contaminants by using respirators and washing stations as recommended by EPA and OSHA.
In total, EPA and OSHA have taken 835 ambient air samples in the New York City metropolitan area. EPA is currently collecting data from 16 fixed air monitors at ground zero and in the residential and business districts around the site, and both EPA and OSHA are using portable sampling equipment to collect data from a range of locations throughout the area.
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 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 have also conducted sampling for the presence of metals (lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper and beryllium) at ground zero and in surrounding areas. None of the levels of these metals have exceeded OSHA limits.
Although EPA has measured dioxin levels in and around the World Trade Center site that were at or above EPA's level for taking action, the risk from dioxin is based on long-term exposure. EPA and OSHA expect levels to diminish as soon as the remaining fires on the site are extinguished.
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.
Fact sheets with more specific information for various parts of the New York City metropolitan area are attached.
Resources for Information on the World Wide Web:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov
U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
New York City Department of Health: www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doh/html/alerts/911.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
New York State Emergency Management Office: www.state.ny.us/sept11/wtcframe.html
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EPA-OSHA FACT SHEET: Environmental Information from Ground Zero at the World Trade Center Site
Much of the monitoring data collected to date on and around the World Trade Center site indicates relatively low levels of asbestos and other potential contaminants. Nevertheless, workers should take precautions to protect themselves from any potential exposure.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are making every effort to protect the health of workers at the World Trade Center site. EPA and OSHA are providing real-time analysis in the immediate vicinity of the debris pile at ground zero, checking for compounds such as benzene, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide that are associated with fires. This information helps response workers on the scene determine what level of respiratory protection is appropriate to use. EPA is also collecting data from 16 fixed air monitors in and around ground zero, which provide critical information about levels of asbestos at the site.
Crews working on the rubble pile at the World Trade Center site should wear respirators, which have been provided by EPA, OSHA and other government agencies, and take appropriate precautions to protect against potential environmental hazards. OSHA is fit-checking respirators for workers involved in the rescue and recovery.
To reduce worker exposure to the dust, EPA has set up washing stations for response workers at ground zero. These stations provide shelter, shade and a place for workers to wash off and change into clean clothing before going home. Vehicles and heavy equipment departing the zone are being washed down prior to departure as well. Signs informing rescuers of the need to wear protective gear are posted throughout the washing areas.
Asbestos Monitoring Data -- Ambient Air Samples:
OSHA has analyzed 67 air samples in the area where crews are actively working on the World Trade Center Site. None of these samples exceeded OSHA's permissible exposure limit of 0.1 f/cc as an 8-hour time-weighted average.
EPA has collected and analyzed a total of 442 air samples for asbestos from its 16 fixed air monitoring stations, which are located in the area surrounding the World Trade Center site. Only 27 were above 70 structures per millimeter squared, the AHERA standard, which is based upon assumptions of long-term exposure. ("AHERA" is the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which is used to determine whether children may re-enter a school building after an asbestos removal or abatement.)
Asbestos Monitoring Data -- Bulk Dust and Debris Samples:
EPA and OSHA have also sampled dust at the site and in the surrounding area for asbestos. Of 177 bulk samples collected by EPA and OSHA, 48 contained more than one percent asbestos, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material. The existence of dust that contains more than one percent of asbestos does not in itself constitute a significant health hazard -- ambient air samples are more accurate measures of actual exposure potential, and asbestos is primarily considered hazardous after long-term exposure -- but dust samples do provide important information about potential exposure. Asbestos was used as a fire-proofing material in a portion of one of the World Trade Center towers.
EPA took samples at four stations on Sept. 16 and analyzed them for dioxin. Levels were at or just above EPA's standard for action based upon an assumption of a continuous 30-year exposure. EPA is monitoring closely, but sees no cause for concern by workers or the public based upon short-term exposure to these levels. EPA and OSHA recommend that workers at the site use respirators they have been provided, which will protect them from exposure to dioxins.
OSHA has taken 53 samples of metals such as lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper and beryllium. None of the levels found for these metals have exceeded OSHA limits.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):
EPA and OSHA have closely monitored levels of VOCs in the plume of smoke coming from the site, mainly to assist response workers in determining the appropriate level of respiratory protection. Four samples exceeded the OSHA standard of 0.5 parts per million (ppm) for an eight-hour day, but did not approach a level of immediate concern to workers. The sample taken September 22 had a level of 3.2 ppm. One sample taken on September 26 had a level of 11 ppm, which fell to 2.6 ppm on September 29. The sample taken September 30 found 5.1 ppm. EPA and OSHA are continuing to monitor these emissions closely, but expect them to decrease significantly as the remaining fires under the debris pile are extinguished.
OSHA has taken nine personal samples of carbon monoxide for workers on the debris pile; results range from 1 ppm to 15 ppm -- well below the OSHA standard (50 ppm permissible exposure limit). As a precaution, FEMA is bringing in a medical team to handle any potential health complaints from workers on the site.
OSHA has collected more than 40 samples from the disaster site and analyzed them for crystalline silica. The overwhelming majority have shown no detectable levels of silica. The highest result was less than half the OSHA limit.
Freon, which is commonly used as a coolant in refrigerators and air conditioners, was stored in the basement of the World Trade Center. The freon containers have been located and are reported to be intact. The freon will be recycled after it is removed.
EPA-OSHA FACT SHEET: Environmental Information from Lower Manhattan for Residents, Area Employees and Local Business Owners
Air and dust samples collected in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey show that the public is not being exposed to concentrations of asbestos above EPA or OSHA levels of concern. Shortly after the World Trade Center collapse, EPA's emergency response team and OSHA staff were on the scene taking air and dust samples and analyzing them for asbestos, lead and volatile organic compounds.
Four air samples, collected on September 11 in Brooklyn where the prevailing winds were blowing, were analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Also, five air samples were collected on September 11 in Brooklyn and were analyzed for lead and asbestos. None of the samples had detectable levels of lead. Asbestos was not detected in two samples, and the other two had levels of asbestos well below the EPA (AHERA) standard used to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed or abated. Two samples had no detectable levels of VOCs, and two had very low levels of a VOC compound.
EPA also obtained four air samples from Liberty State Park in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center. Neither asbestos nor lead were detected in any of the samples. Two of the samples contained some toluene, which probably originated from automobile exhaust or gasoline generators being used near the sample collection locations.
As of September 30, EPA has collected and analyzed 442 air samples for asbestos from its 16 fixed air monitoring stations. Only 27 were above 70 structures per millimeter squared, the AHERA standard.
In addition, EPA has taken 128 samples of dust and analyzed them for asbestos. Thirty-four have had levels of asbestos above the 1 percent used to define asbestos-containing material. Four samples of dust taken in the immediate vicinity of the debris pile on September 11 found lead concentrations well below EPA's lead action level. Only one of the four samples had an asbestos level over the 1 percent.
In addition, OSHA took nearly 200 bulk dust and air samples to test for asbestos in the Financial District and a 90-block area immediately surrounding the World Trade Center from September 13 to September 24. Results showed levels consistent with safe and acceptable standards, ranging from 0.0013 f/cc to 0.086 f/cc.
EPA has used its 10 HEPA filter SUPERVAC vacuum trucks to clean streets, sidewalks and parks in residential and commercial areas around the World Trade Center site, where heavy dust or the presence of asbestos was found. The high-powered vacuum trucks have been used to clean streets in the Financial District, as well as sidewalks, the Battery Park City promenade, area parks, playgrounds, and even children's sand boxes. Dust and other materials vacuumed are being kept in air-tight containers and disposed of properly. Vacuum trucks will be available to address other areas, as needed.
In examining the data provided by EPA and OSHA, the public should be careful to distinguish between data that measures asbestos concentrations in the air and in data from dust samples taken from the ground or other surfaces. Ambient air samples are more accurate indicators of the potential exposure of the public to potential contaminants. Levels of asbestos in the dust and debris vary. The agencies have found some levels above the one percent standard that indicates that the material contains asbestos, but ambient air sampling has not generally revealed concentrations of asbestos at levels that pose significant threats to public health.
EPA has been evaluating samples of air against an extremely stringent standard, the AHERA standard (70 structures per millimeter squared; established by the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act). Levels of asbestos above the AHERA standard do not imply that there is an immediate health threat to the public. Asbestos exposure becomes a health concern when high concentrations of asbestos fibers are inhaled over a long period.
Metals: EPA collected air samples at 24 locations in the residential and business districts near the World Trade Center on September 16, 23, and 27 and analyzed them for metals. No samples violated OSHA standards.
Workers in the Financial District:
EPA and OSHA made extensive efforts to ensure the safety of workers in the Financial District as they returned to work on September 17. EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard helped corporate personnel from 42 firms enter financial district buildings to retrieve important information and check computer systems that were needed in order to open the markets on September 17. Buildings were examined for contaminants and to ensure adequate oxygen prior to entry. EPA also deployed its SUPERVAC trucks to the Financial District to clean the streets and sidewalks before employees returned to work.
OSHA took approximately 126 air and bulk samples in the Financial District from September 13 to September 21. Results showed levels well below OSHA standards. Therefore, OSHA ceased sampling in the Financial District on Sept. 21.
Residents and Workers Returning to Homes and Offices in Lower Manhattan
The vast majority of EPA and OSHA samples of air and dust analyzed for asbestos have been at levels that pose no significant risk to residents and workers returning to their homes or area businesses. However, people returning to buildings in the area may find some level of dust and debris. If dust or debris from the World Trade Center site has entered homes or offices, people should be sure to clean thoroughly and avoid inhaling dust while doing so. The New York City Department of Public Health has posted information and recommendations for people reentering buildings at www.ci.nyc.ny.us/html/doh/html/alerts/wtc3.html.
EPA-OSHA FACT SHEET: Other Environmental Issues Related to the Attack on the World Trade Center
EPA and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection sampled drinking water from 13 water mains in lower Manhattan on September 15. Typically, sampling is done at the water main distribution points and not at the tap. Asbestos was not detected in any of the samples, nor was any bacterial contamination. PCBs and pesticides levels were below detectable levels, and metals (including mercury) and radioactivity (both alpha and beta) did not exceed EPA drinking water standards.
EPA has collected water samples from the Hudson and East Rivers where storm sewers and surface runoff is discharged following days of heavy rain to determine if any potential contaminants from the site are entering area waters. Initial runoff samples showed some elevated levels of PCBs, dioxin, asbestos and metals. Levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were at levels normally found in city combined sewage flows. Follow-up samples found non-detectable levels of asbestos, PCBs and PAHs and metals below the level of concern.
EPA has also collected water samples from the 13th Street Pump Station, which transfers wastewater from lower Manhattan to the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn. As a precaution, the Newtown Creek plant is segregating the sewage flows from lower Manhattan and will not use the sludge from these flows for beneficial use. Analysis of samples taken for dioxin showed no elevated levels.
Fresh Kills Landfill:
EPA has been monitoring and analyzing dust levels at the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center site is being taken for storage and analysis by the FBI. EPA has taken 162 air samples at the landfill, with only two exceeding the AHERA standard. EPA has found no cause for alarm, but is advising FBI crews at the landfill to wear respirators and to suppress the dust with water when dust levels rise. EPA is now operating and has upgraded washing stations for workers and trucks at the site, which were previously managed by the National Guard. Recent data indicates dust levels on the site are decreasing.
Small Business Assistance:
EPA Compliance Assistance staff are working with the Small Business Administration to provide information to impacted small businesses regarding assistance loans and cleanup options. Business owners can contact SBA disaster assistance at 1-800-659-2955.
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