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Immediate environmental health issues


In the days immediately following the attack on the World Trade Center, just getting a handle on the scope and scale of the environmental health issues at hand in New York City was a huge challenge.

 “This was big – everything you could think of relative to environmental health--air quality, water quality, hazardous waste, disposal, was there was here and more,” says CDC’s Ron Burger. “It seemed to be the biggest environmental health incident the city had ever encountered.”

Among the immediate challenges for environmental health professionals in endeavoring to protect the city of 8 million people:

·         Unparalleled worksite hazards at Ground Zero

·         The huge amount of dust—later determined to be 1.2 million tons—pervading the city, particularly lower Manhattan, and carried aloft to other boroughs

·         Characterizing what was in the plume and where it went, and dust

·         Smoke from ongoing fires—characterizing what toxins it might be laced with

·         Indoor dust that made its way through windows, doors, crevices and rooftops

·         Resuspended dust outdoors and in

·         Removing toxin-laden debris and dust

·         The final hazards of debris disposed at the Fresh Kill landfill in Staten Island

Besides all these, as mentioned before, there were the host of environmental health concerns that come with any disaster—insuring the safety of food, restaurants, protection from rats and rodents and insects.