Air Today . . . Gone Tomorrow Article|
Advisory Committee Finds Serious Flaws in EPA'S Proposed WTC Sampling Program: Urges EPA
to Commit to Cleanup Wherever Contaminants Remain
World Trade Center Community Labor
Coalition Immediate Release, January 19, 2005
WASHINGTON -- January 19 -- An independent Expert Advisory Committee of six scientific
experts have submitted a report to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
urging it to test for mercury, small fiber asbestos and other toxins from Ground Zero that
may have infiltrated area buildings. Their report also urges the EPA to test buildings in
parts of Brooklyn for evidence of World Trade Center (WTC) contamination and consider data
on patterns of health effects among residents in establishing the zone for testing.
The experts' report will reach EPA today, having met the deadline for comments on EPA's
plan for indoor testing for the purpose of identifying and cleaning up any harmful WTC
contamination that remains within homes and buildings. The Expert Advisory Committee,
headed by Dr. David Carpenter, a medical doctor on the faculty at the University at
Albany, was established with funding from the EPA to advise the WTC Community-Labor
Coalition, a network of community, environmental, tenant, labor and other organizations
that have been participating in a public process to establish this program.
The Committee concluded that the EPA proposal needs to be strengthened in several ways.
The sampling program does not propose sampling in all of the affected areas, does
not test for all of the contaminants of concern, and does not adequately test for the fine
particulates and fibers that will be concentrated in indoor spaces. Also, because it
depends on 'volunteered' buildings for sampling, it will likely considerably underestimate
the extent of contamination, said Dr. Carpenter. The urgent need is to clean
up indoor spaces that are contaminated with WTC toxins as quickly as possible.
The experts examined technical documents associated with the proposed sampling plan. Their
report, and comments from the WTC Community-Labor Coalition based on the experts
findings, will be reviewed by the EPA and the WTC Expert Technical Review Panel. That
Panel was established by the White House Council on Environmental Quality in 2003 under an
agreement with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton allowing the nomination of former EPA
Administrator Michael Leavitt to go forward.
The Expert Advisory Committees comments provide important support for the
communitys very reasonable requests for an effective testing program that will
identify and eliminate any threats to human health from 9/11 pollution that infiltrated
the indoor environment, said Catherine McVay Hughes, the Community Liaison to the
Ensuring cleanup of contaminants was identified as a high priority by the experts. In
particular, they expressed significant concern that EPA did not plan to conduct cleanup if
it found elevated levels of contamination only in less-frequently cleaned areas such as
above or behind cabinets, or inaccessible areas such as building ventilation
systems. The Expert Advisory Committee warned that, it is not appropriate to fail to
utilize contaminant levels from inaccessible areas as a consideration for cleanup.
They pointed out that contaminants in such areas could later become sources of exposure.
The experts advised the EPA to test for mercury in particulate form rather than vapor
form, noting that if mercury from the towers (especially from the destruction of the
thousands of fluorescent lights) penetrated buildings, it would most likely be present in
The experts also warned that the EPA must not ignore the very small fibers and particles
that may pose significant health threats. Private tests of asbestos in World Trade Center
dust, taken soon after the disaster, had found significant levels of very small asbestos
fibers that the EPA had argued were too small to pose a threat to human health. The Expert
Advisory Committee strongly recommends that EPA test for short asbestos fibers this time,
and report the results. It states, Any assumption that short fibers, less than 5
microns in length, are not hazardous cannot be justified based on the available
The experts report cited the need for testing in Brooklyn, based on evidence of the
pathway of the toxic 9/11 dust cloud. They urged the EPA to include such testing in its
first round of sampling rather than later. They also advised the EPA to consider recent
studies of respiratory health impacts in certain residential areas as grounds for testing
in those locations. They cited a study of children in an asthma clinic in Chinatown that
documented impacts in children living within a five-mile radius of Ground Zero, and a
study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of Manhattan
residents that documented impacts among those living within a mile of the site. They
further recommended that EPA take "background" samples outside the impact areas,
using identical methods, for comparison.
The report provides strong support for the position of community and labor advocates
that the EPA should test for more substances than it has proposed, and that its testing
zone should cover all areas affected by the toxic 9/11 dust cloud, said Micki Siegel
de Hernandez, Director of the Health and Safety Program for the Communication Workers of
America, District One, and an Alternate Community Liaison to the Panel.
The experts' report stated that the program's primary objective should be to
identify habitable spaces with ongoing World Trade Center contamination and provide
cleanup where warranted. It urged that it is imperative that indoor spaces be
cleaned of WTC toxics, and that EPA should not delay cleanup while it tries to
identify a chemical signature that would absolutely prove whether or not
contamination came from Ground Zero. It warned that a signature might never be
Finally, the experts called for strict quality control measures to be included in the
sampling plan, so that the work is carried out properly and the program earns public
We are glad the experts called for a strong quality control protocol to ensure that
testing and analysis is carried out properly, said Kimberly Flynn, a spokesperson
for 9/11 Environmental Action. We have testified that too many of the contractors
who carried out EPAs first attempt at a sampling and cleanup program in 2002 did
sloppy work and often did not even have their workers wear masks.
The EPA and the WTC Expert Technical Review Panel are expected to meet in late February to
discuss the findings of the Expert Advisory Committee and public comments on the sampling
The Expert Advisory Committee members include: David O. Carpenter, M.D., University at
Albany (Chair); Scott M. Bartell, Ph.D., Emory University, Paul Woods Bartlett, B.E.S.,
City University of New York (on leave); John Dement, Ph.D., Certified Industrial
Hygienist, Duke University; Liam O. Horgan, Certified Industrial Hygienist, Assessment
Resources & Technologies, Inc.; Gary T. Hunt, M.S., Q.E.P., TRC Companies, Inc.; and
Richard A. Lemen, Ph.D., Assistant Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Service (retired).
For documents, see websites of 9/11 Environmental Action, < http://www.911ea.org/WTCCLC.htm>, and the
New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, < http://www.nycosh.org/environment_wtc/WTC-CoalitionComments.pdf.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been
specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my
efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights,
political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes
a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US
Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational
Take me back to learn more