EPA Says General Public Unlikely to Suffer Health Effects from 9/11

In an article set to appear in this month’s edition of the periodical Risk Analysis, the Environmental Protection Agency says that “except for inhalation exposures that may have occurred on 9/11, and a few days afterward, the ambient (air concentration) data suggest that persons in the general population were unlikely to suffer short-term or long-term adverse health effects caused by inhalation exposures [as a result of 9/11].”

The article, which will be released on December 11, 2007, was written by Matthew Lorber of the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), Washington; four EPA colleagues, and a scientist with the consulting firm Sciences International of Alexandria, Va.

In the article, the authors point out that “the EPA initiated numerous air-monitoring activities to better understand the ongoing impact of emissions from that disaster” Among the contaminants evaluated were particulate matter (PM), metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, asbestos, volatile organic compounds, particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), silica and synthetic vitreous fibers (SVFs).

Asbestos has been of particular concern because much of the World Trade Center – particularly the lower floors – was insulated with the dangerous material and much asbestos was found on the streets of New York following the disaster. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can eventually cause cancer and a few emergency workers have already been afflicted with or died of asbestos-related diseases.

The authors did acknowledge that there were “limitations” to their study, including uncertainty about air quality during the first few hours and days after 9/11, and the fact that difficulties associated with site access and security, power supply sources, equipment availability and analytical capacity hindered efforts to begin regular monitoring for several days.

Leave a Reply