NYCity Council Hearing
on Post-9/11 Remediation of WTC Contamination (revised)
Marjorie J. Clarke, Ph.D, QEP, CUNY faculty, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am Marjorie J. Clarke, Ph.D., Scientist-in-Residence and adjunct assistant professor in the City University of New York system.† I was co-author of a National Academy of Sciences report on the Health Effects of Waste Incineration and teach a course on urban environmental health management.† I have written extensively on incineration emissions and their control:† www.maggieclarkeenvironmental.com
addition to being a tragedy of global proportions, as an environmental
disaster, the collapse of the three
The Precautionary Principle needs to be applied to disaster response decision-making.† The aim should not be either to reassure the public at all costs or to rush people back into their homes and businesses for the sake of the stock exchange or similar.† The evacuation zone should extend to where there is no evidence of environmental impact (e.g., no air pollution odors, no dusts, no immediate health impacts Ė e.g. coughing, nosebleeds, etc).† For example, the NYC DOH asked citizens who were forced back into a hazardous situation (their homes and offices) and told to remediate toxic waste with wet rags.† This actually Caused additional exposure to hazardous air pollutants of thousands of people, and exposes the City to lawsuits.† And though the Fire Department was heroic in their rescue attempts, they were ill-equipped, not trained, or even asked to try to totally extinguish the fires which caused a huge on-going source of hazardous air pollutants.† The City Council needs to address these problems once and for all, and to codify, in law, requirements to assure that adequate precautions are taken so that protection of public health and safety is paramount priority above everything else in disaster response.† This includes prevention of additional exposures to air and water pollutants.† This priority should continue until sufficient data have been collected and analyzed to make certain that no danger exists. †
Evacuation Drills involving residents and workers, as well as emergency response personnel.† The City may be conducting drills, but if the average person has no idea of what to do in a disaster, or confidence that anything has been planned, whatís going to happen?† We never practice evacuating part of the city much less individual buildings or subway stations.† In two years of working at WTC 1 Ė 83rd floor, we had only one drill, consisting of walking down to the 77th floor.† This accomplishes nothing.† Actual large- and small-scale evacuation drills need to be practiced.† The City Council should provide funds for such planning and drills.
Resolution: To recommend that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a risk assessment of the public health impacts due to the air pollution caused by the 9/11 attacks.
Sharing health information with the public.† The City Council needs to enact laws to ensure that sharing of correct health info with public (air quality data, air quality alerts, emergency and evacuation info) occurs immediately after the start of any environmental emergency.†† Such an emergency could be a spill, explosion, collapse, or terrorist incident.† The information should be included on public websites and via the media.
Sharing health information with physicians and hospitals.† To ensure that guidance is disseminated to all physicians and hospitals in the area to look for and properly treat those exposed to WTC air.† According to Mt Sinai 2/4/02 memo to help physicians determine whether pulmonary symptoms are related to WTC, some symptoms from exposure can begin as late as 3 weeks after exposure or cessation of exposure.†† If physicians had to be given guidance on these issues, many of those exposed are likely not to realize their symptoms are WTC-related.† Why didn't the City, State or Federal government issue this memo in September?† Efforts are not being made to locate all those who were exposed and to characterize their exposures and register their symptoms over time.
Use of similar laws.† The City Council should enact a law to require that any existing laws and regulations to prevent and control emissions from hazardous waste incinerators, ash management facilities, and other sources of pollution be applied to environmental disasters.† For example, WTC ash and debris were not transported in sealed trucks or moved to barge in sealed facilities, even though this is required for less toxic incinerator ash.
CUNY Research facility.† The City Council should
fund the City University of New York to create a new research center on
Standards Needed for Different types of exposure
Various governmental agencies have applied occupational safety exposure levels for specific pollutants to those exposed to WTC air.† But there are several distinct groups of those exposed, and each group has had distinctly different exposures:
∑ Those working on the pile (Variables: the level of emissions have decreased over time as the fires decreased in extent, degree of protective respirator/masks used, amount of time spent)
∑ Those who were caught in the initial horrendous dust cloud, covered in dust, running away, breathing intense quantities of dust deeply into the lungs and ingesting dust particles.
∑ Those living in the area (Variables: level of emissions varies depending on specific location, on weather, and length of time since 9/11; degree of protective respirator/masks used)
∑ Those who cleaned apartments (level of exposure varying with amount of dust in apartment, method of cleaning, degree of protective respirator/masks used, amount of time spent in cleaning)
∑ Those working in the area - 8 hours a day five days a week; (Variables: degree of protective respirator/masks used)
∑ Those at risk:† Children, Elderly, Compromised Immune systems, those with pulmonary problems are more likely to suffer more adverse affects than others for all the above categories.
Handlers of disposed debris:† shipments to
Most of these groups of exposed cannot be compared with occupational exposure.† Studies of occupational exposure assume 5 days a week, 8 hours a day exposure to adults (healthy males?)† What about those who live there, those at risk, those caught in the initial cloud?† This requires considerable investigation, and many new standards need to be created to address these different categories of exposure.
Research into and adoption of more protective building codes† (less toxic materials, evacuable buildings, better fire drill and practice evacuations, better, more well-thought out announcement systems during emergencies.† It is arguable that many people died in stairwells too small to evacuate everyone, especially since their capacity was reduced by half due to firefighters climbing them at the same time.† It is arguable that some died when they heard Port Authority announcements to go back to their offices.† Could the buildings be built with fewer toxics?†
Getting to the Truth
EPA has set the scientific method on its head by letting policy (as handed down from the White House) determine conclusions that have enormous implications for New Yorkersí public health and safety, rather than the data.† EPAís current propensity to practice junk science has been demonstrated more than once in the WTC issue.† Not only did EPA conclude that the air was safe before gathering data, they issued belated reports to the public and media highlighting conclusions several months prior to beginning a scientific peer review on it (this is reverse of scientific practice), and they began a faux cleanup program months prior to having a peer review of the Contaminants of Potential Concern document on which the cleanup was based.† The peer reviewers have not heartily endorsed everything that EPA had done in its reports.† EPAís procedures are backwards.† They are a feeble attempt to cover up poor decision-making methods.† The City Council should be aware of this and not assume that conclusions announced by EPA under the current administration are based on sound science.† The following are links to my Comments on† the EPA/NCEA document:† ďExposure and Human Health Evaluation of Airborne Pollution from the World Trade Center DisasterĒ http://www.geography.hunter.cuny.edu/~mclarke/EPANCEAcomments-ClarkeRossolSingh.htm, and http://www.geography.hunter.cuny.edu/~mclarke/FurtherCommentsOnNCEAdocument.htm
Further, since I and others have heard EPAís On Scene Coordinators (OSCís) say that City officials obfuscated EPAís initial attempts to assist in environmental assessments, etc., it is imperative that the City Council subpoena all the EPA OSCís to determine exactly what they were told and by whom.† It is important because if we donít understand the failures of the last emergency, we will suffer the same failures for the next one.
Precedents and Perspective
It was asked, what could be done better in the event of a
disaster, and why?† First, itís important
to look in perspective at the measures the
If the City Council can accomplish, via resolution,
legislation, and appropriation the few recommendations given above, the