EPA to begin final World Trade Center health air and dust testing in buildings next year

Thursday, December 7th 2006, 8:30 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency plans to launch its final Sept. 11 contamination cleanup program next month, more than five years after the attacks and following years of criticism that the agency still has not done enough.

The $7 million cleanup will test the air and dust in nearby apartments and buildings for four contaminants linked to debris from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers: asbestos, lead, man-made fibers and polycyclic armoatic hydrocarbons.

Officials say the amount of testing and cleanup this time will depend largely on how many people sign up for testing. In 2002 and 2003, the EPA visited more than 4,000 units in the area.

``The vast majority of occupied residential and commercial spaces in lower Manhattan have been repeatedly cleaned, and we believe the potential for exposure related to dust that may remain from the collapse of the World Trade Center building is low,'' EPA official Dr. George Gray said Wednesday as the new cleanup program was announced.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of several New York lawmakers who have complained that the EPA failed to protect public health following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, called the new plan ``incredibly frustrating and disappointing.''

``EPA has now acknowledged that additional testing is necessary, but the program announced today is totally inadequate,'' Clinton said in a statement Wednesday.

Clinton has said the plan should expand the area tested and charged that the agency ``is essentially throwing up its hands and washing them of this problem.'' She said she would use her new position as incoming chairwoman of an environmental subcommittee to push the agency for more testing and cleaning.

The lawmakers' fight with the administration on 9/11 health matters began after the EPA asserted within days of the terrorist attacks that the dust from 1.8 million tons of World Trade Center debris posed no public health threat.

Since then, doctors have found thousands of ground zero workers suffered a variety of ailments, primarily lung and gastrointestinal disorders. The demands for treatment grew more urgent after the January death of a 34-year-old former police detective was blamed on his exposure at the site.

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