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U.S. Agency to Expand Air Tests at NYC's Ground Zero (Update1)
By Patrick Cole, Bloomberg News, July 26, 2004

July 26 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. government-led committee of experts studying air quality after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack said it would expand testing for toxins and contaminants north of Canal Street in lower Manhattan.

The 18-member panel, formed in March by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also said it would broaden its investigation to include public and private buildings such as firehouses and schools, with testing to begin as early as year-end, said Paul Gilman, the chairman of the group. The committee initially offered testing and cleaning only to 35,000 residents living south of Canal Street, of which about 4,100 enrolled.

"We want to be able to gather information on commercial buildings as well as residential -- the full range including public buildings -- to ultimately determine the geographical extent of contamination,'' Gilman, the EPA's science adviser and assistant administrator for research and development, said at a public meeting at St. John's University Campus in Manhattan.

The decision to expand its testing area as far north as Houston Street in Manhattan and include more buildings comes amid entreaties by lower Manhattan residents to speed air testing in the area. Since its formation, the group has been determining which chemicals and particles make up the "signature'' of the dust caused by the collapse of the trade center's twin towers and subsequent fires.

Preliminary Findings
Preliminary EPA studies have already found hazardous chemicals in the air. Samples taken two years ago in neighborhoods near Ground Zero found more than 20 dioxins and minerals in the area, including mercury, copper and aluminum.

Another study released today in the latest issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'' showed that cancer-causing substances known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were 65 times higher than normal within six months after the trade center attack. Since the compounds' levels were high for a short time, the study concluded that there was "little increase in lifetime cancer risk'' in people living near the trade center.

While the levels decreased as the fires were contained at Ground Zero, there is concern that the chemicals in the air might have affected the offspring of women living near the site who were or became pregnant at the time the substances were present, the study said. The hydrocarbons have been associated with intrauterine growth restriction, which results in babies being born smaller than normal, the study said.

Deutsche Bank Building
The panel also said it will investigate potential environmental and health risks at the Deutsche Bank building across the street from Ground Zero, which is to be demolished by the state agency overseeing development at the trade center site. A study of the 40-story tower, commissioned as part of a law suit against two of Deutsche Bank's insurers showed the building had levels of asbestos, lead, mercury and other substances a thousand times higher than Environmental Protection Agency standards.

"It is definitely within our mission statement to help with this,'' said David Prezant, the New York Fire Department's chief medical officer and a member of the EPA panel of experts.

Mary Perillo, a resident of 125 Cedar Street next to the Deutsche Bank building, said she was "thrilled and floored'' by the panel's decision to take a closer look at contamination of the Deutsche Bank building.

Revised Plan
Under its revised proposal, the EPA would ask owners and managers of private and public buildings including firehouses and police stations for access to the properties for testing.

Buildings as far north as Houston Street in Manhattan would be eligible for EPA screening, said Matthew Lorber, a senior scientist at the EPA's office of research and development.

"The intent is to characterize the entire building, not just a single unit,'' Lorber said.

Gilman said the panel couldn't provide details about its plans to study the Deutsche Bank building. Irene Chang, the general counsel for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is in charge of redeveloping the trade center site, said it has hired consultants to assess the level of contaminants in the building before it is dismantled.

"The building is not going to be imploded,'' Chang said at the meeting. The development agency agreed earlier this year agreed to purchase the Deutsche Bank building for $90 million and take over a $45 million contract to take it down. It has said it intends to take building apart piece by piece to minimize the release of contaminants, and awarded the demolition contract to Gilbane Building Co.

Gilman also said the EPA may look for evidence of contamination in Brooklyn. Residents have said that dust and debris from the trade center attack spread from Ground Zero across the East River to neighborhoods there.

"We know there was dust in Brooklyn, the question has been at what levels, and the thinking has always been not nearly the levels as seen in Manhattan,'' Gilman said. "This is a phase one proposal and we want to look and see what are the extremes, what the contamination levels look like and then we will ask ourselves, ' Should we be going to Brooklyn as well?'''

--Editor Williams.
Story illustration For more New York region news, see {TNYC <GO>}. For a tour of news functions on the Bloomberg, see {CNP 08377340102 <GO>}. For an overview of Deutsche Bank's performance, see {DBK GR <Equity> CNP0094090108 <GO>}. For the Web site of Lower Manhattan Development Corp., click on http// For details about the Environmental Protection Agency's study of pollution in Lower Manhattan and the Technical Expert Review Panel, see http//

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at (212) 318-2072 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward DeMarco in Washington at (1) (202) 624-1935 or


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