Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article

Ground Zero 'brutal' for workers
By Juan Gonzales, New York Daily News, September 11, 2003

In the weeks after 9/11, the burning debris pile at Ground Zero "was a chemical factory that exhaled pollutants in particularly dangerous forms that could penetrate deep into the lungs of workers," according to a new study by air quality experts at the University of California-Davis.

Breathing in the fine particulates would have been "brutal" for Ground Zero recovery workers who did not wear respirators - and only slightly less so for others nearby, said Tom Cahill, professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric science and lead researcher for the study.

Cahill's study, to be published in a scientific journal, measured fine airborne contaminants - toxic metals, acids and high-temperature organic matter - at levels that federal studies before 9/11 showed could raise the risk of lung damage and heart disease.

The Environmental Protection Agency and city health officials conceded there were occasional spikes in some pollutants in the weeks after the towers collapsed. But they said they posed no health hazards beyond Ground Zero and urged workers on the site to wear respirators.

The report bluntly contradicts EPA and city assurances.

"Many of those recovery workers received 20years' worth of dangerous exposures in a couple of months," Cahill said yesterday, adding that those without proper protection may face greater risk for cardiac disease because the ultra-fine pollutants can travel into the bloodstream and the heart.

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