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July 19th, 2007

What Every New Yorker Should Know About Asbestos

by You the Reader

July 19, 2007

Don’t Spin Asbestos Contamination! Asbestos Is a Potent Carcinogen.

If Midtown Is Contaminated, Residents and Workers Must Be Protected and the Asbestos Must Be Cleaned Up by Workers Wearing Legally Required Respiratory Protection

9/11 Environmental Action today released this statement:

Yesterday’s steampipe explosion resulted in an uncontrolled release of asbestos over an undetermined area of Manhattan.

Asbestos in settled dust can be a great public health hazard, because the asbestos in the dust can become airborne when it is disturbed, either by intention during clean-up or by the air disturbance caused by a footfall or a passing vehicle.

Any amount of airborne asbestos is a carcinogen, if inhaled.

Public health authorities must immediately determine the extent and amount of midtown asbestos contamination, either airborne or in settled dust. The workers who take the samples must be medically cleared to wear appropriate respiratory protection, they must be provided with appropriate respiratory protection, they must have been trained to wear it so that it provides optimal protection, and they must wear the protection in accordance with federal, state and city asbestos protection regulations.

If any amount of asbestos that is greater than the normal background level is found, the contaminated area must be immediately decontaminated, in accordance with federal, state and city regulations.  If it cannot be immediately decontaminated, the area must be evacuated of anyone who is not medically cleared to wear, trained to wear and actually wearing appropriate respiratory protection.

The police should not be “giving face masks to building workers,” as the New York Post reported, unless the masks are appropriate for respiratory protection for asbestos (which they are almost certainly not) and unless the workers receiving the equipment are also medically cleared, trained, and supervised when they are working in a contaminated area.

Asbestos has never been banned in the United States. The federal government attempted to ban it in 1989, but the regulation never went into effect.

According to the Associated Press, asbestos “can cause cancer and other serious diseases when inhaled over many years, according to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.”

In fact, there is no safe level (or duration) of asbestos exposure. The more asbestos one is exposed to, the greater the risk, but any level or duration of exposure carries some risk of cancer.


9/11 ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and all contributions are tax deductible in accordance with IRS regulations. A community-based organization of residents, parents and occupational safety, public and environmental health advocates, formed in April 2002 to end the federal Environmental Protection Agency cover-up, 9/11 EA fights for a comprehensive clean-up, and demands medical monitoring and health care for everyone harmed by WTC contamination.

Filed Under: Community | New York | News | Take Action





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