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Independent Scientific 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 Committee’s comments provide important support for the community’s 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 Panel.

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 particulate form.

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 science.”

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 identified.

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 credibility.

“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 EPA’s 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 plan.

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, <>, and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, <

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