Issue Date: April 5, 2004
WTC CLEANUP REVISITED
More than 30 months have passed since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center (WTC). The debris is gone and nearby apartments have been cleaned of the dust from the collapse of the towers. But some residents of Lower Manhattan continue to suffer health effects related to the dust.
Last week, a panel of experts convened by EPA began to probe thorny technical issues related to determining whether apartments have been recontaminated with WTC dust through heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. The committee is reviewing a proposed study to ascertain whether apartments that EPA cleaned following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks remain clean.
One issue concerns EPA's testing of dust and air samples for the presence of asbestos. Asbestos exposure is linked to long-term health problems. Yet the immediate health concerns of those people who live in the cleaned apartments are their recurring bouts of coughs and bronchitis.
The panel must determine if it is appropriate for EPA to use asbestos as a surrogate to test for glass fibers, which are part of the WTC debris but are difficult to detect. EPA assumes that by cleaning up asbestos, glass fibers will be removed, too. Many physicians believe that nearby residents' health complaints are linked to glass fiber debris. Panel experts explained that the glass fibers are covered with cement and gypsum dust, which are high-pH materials that can irritate the upper respiratory tract.
The panel plans to meet again on April 12.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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