Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

EPA Releases Asbestos Results
By Margaret Ramirez, Newsday Staff Writer, October 22, 2002

Three of 255 apartments fouled by potentially toxic dust from the collapse of the Twin Towers showed elevated levels of asbestos in testing since August, federal environmental officials said Tuesday. In releasing the first results of testing of apartments in the vicinity of Ground Zero, U.s. Environmental Protection Agency assistant regional administrator Kathleen Callahan cautioned that the data are limited because they only represent a fraction of the nearly 6,000 apartments to be tested.
They also do not include information on lead, mercury and dioxins.

But she said the agency did not want to delay release of the information, and will posted updated testing results weekly at “This, by no means, is meant to provide statistically significant information about the overall expectations of the future,” said Callahan. “But, we want to make the data that we collect available within a reasonable time.”

EPA’s decision to sponsor the unprecedented apartment cleanup in lower Manhattan marked a reversal. The agency initially said that cleaning dwellings after the Sept. 11 attack was the responsibility of tenants and owners. Since then, residents of 4,790 apartments have requested cleaning and testing. Another 1,146 people have asked for asbestos testing only.

Speaking at EPA offices in Manhattan, Callahan said 139 apartments have been cleaned and tested so far. None of those had asbestos levels that exceeded federal standards. Another 116 apartments have been tested only, but will not be cleaned. Of those, there were three apartments that exceeded asbestos standards, Callahan said.

The federal criteria for asbestos are set at .0009 fibers per cubic centimeter. The three apartments that went above the federal standard were found to have .0010, .0011 or .0016. fibers per cubic centimeter.

In addition to asbestos testing, officials also plan to randomly choose 250 apartments and test them using surface-swiped samples for dioxins and metals such as mercury and lead. Although some of that testing has begun, Callahan said the data were not yet available.

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