For Immediate Release
Please distribute freely
A coalition of people from around the country called 911 ASH (Air Safety Hazards), concerned about toxins released by the World Trade Center fires and collapses, urges rescue workers and residents in New York City to take appropriate measures to protect themselves. Their website is at http://www.immuneweb.org/911
(New York, NY, Oakland, CA., October 8, 2001)
Over the past several weeks official, but largely unsubstantiated, claims of "safety" for those breathing in the dust and smoke still emanating from the WTC recovery site, became a call to action for a group of people who suffer from a range of serious health problems brought on by overexposure to toxic chemicals. Calling themselves the 911 ASH organization, the acronym refers to issues of "air safety hazards" while calling up visions both of the dust-coated streets and apartment surfaces in the area as well as plumes of smoke spreading out for miles.
Spokespersons Barbara Rubin (New York) and Cyndi Norman (California) are part of an international internet network of people sharing experiences and scientific data about environmentally induced injuries and autoimmune diseases. "As the story unfolded," said Rubin, "we began to realize the implications for adverse short and long-term health effects to unprotected rescue workers and residents in the path of the dust and smoke." Officials have minimized the risks faced by New Yorkers and issued claims of safety; claims made even prior to the completion of many tests being run. That was sufficient for Rubin to want to get out a strong message to her fellow New Yorkers. "Most of us were injured--and many permanently disabled--by chemical exposures which industry and the government kept assuring us were 'safe.'" Rubin suffers from the aftermath of pesticide poisoning.
News footage of the WTC rescue efforts confirmed their worst fears. Many rescue workers and others at Ground Zero wore paper or cloth masks, inadequate protection for fine particulate matter or gasses, including asbestos, soot, and volatile chemicals. "Seeing this really upset me," said Norman. "Why do firefighters not have proper safety equipment in their rigs? They protect skin but not lungs. Our goal is to prevent more people from becoming like us," Norman explained. "We think workers and residents should assume the worst about what is in their air, water, and the dust and use the right safety equipment from the beginning. Doesn't that make more sense than assuming it is safe and finding out 20 years from now that the official statements were wrong?"
There are no scientific papers detailing the creation, dispersion, and long and short-term effects of a tragedy of this magnitude. Asbestos and fiberglass are clearly present, as is soot; fine particles known to increase the incidence and symptoms of asthma, heart disease, and other medical conditions. What are rarely mentioned are the myriad toxins in the smoke itself. Since no one knows exactly what this particular combination of plastics, PVC, office furniture, carpet, freon, natural gas, jet fuel, metals, asbestos, glass, fiberglass, and other components of the office buildings do when incinerated, it is impossible to fully test for toxic exposures.
The Environmental Protection Agency, along with the New York City Department of Public Health and others, have released test results for only a few of the better known toxins, such as asbestos, radiation, carbon monoxide, and bacterial/infectious materials. They have ignored most of the components of the smoke and toxins bound to dust particles. When they say the air is "safe," they mean that the chemicals they tested for fall within limits they consider acceptable for the general population. However, it should be emphasized that these "acceptable limits" for hazardous levels of substances are meant to apply to healthy adults, not to children, elderly, or infirm persons.
To aid the public in educating themselves in such matters, 911 ASH has put together a website with information about World Trade Center toxins, health risks, and safety equipment. The website address is http://www.immuneweb.org/911
Readers are urged to discuss these issues with their physicians and elected officials.
For more information please contact:
P.O. Box 224
Locust Valley, NY 11560
3725 Maybelle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94619