EPA Administrator Christie Whitman and U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for OSHA John Henshaw announced that both federal agencies are providing the public with extensive additional environmental monitoring data from the World Trade Center site and nearby areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Both agencies have taken hundreds of samples to monitor environmental conditions since September 11, and have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents, visitors or workers beyond the immediate World Trade Center area.
In response to public requests for more detailed information, EPA and OSHA are making the results of environmental and occupational sampling available on their sites on the World Wide Web , and will post additional data as it becomes available.
EPA and OSHA, working closely with other federal, state, and local agencies, have been sampling the air, dust, water, river sediments and drinking water and analyzing them for the presence of pollutants such as asbestos, radiation, mercury and other metals, pesticides, PCBs, or bacteria that might create health hazards. They have found no evidence of any significant public health hazard to residents or visitors to the New York metropolitan area.
"EPA's website now has more detailed information on environmental monitoring information in New York City that should be very reassuring to residents, tourists and workers, and we will continue to update that site with information as it becomes available" said EPA Administrator Whitman. "Our data show that contaminant levels are low or nonexistent, and are generally confined to the Trade Center site. There is no need for concern among the general public, but residents and business owners should follow recommended procedures for cleaning up homes and businesses if dust has entered."
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw confirmed that workers on the site should take appropriate steps to protect themselves, but there is no threat to public health. "We have more than 200 staffers involved in a round-the-clock effort, continually monitoring conditions to ensure the safety and health of workers," Administrator Henshaw said. "It is important for workers involved in the recovery and clean-up to wear protective equipment as potential hazards and conditions are constantly changing at the site; however, our samples indicate there is no evidence of significant levels of airborne asbestos or other contaminants beyond the disaster site itself."
On the whole, despite questions about potential contaminants from the Trade Center site, EPA and OSHA data indicates there is no cause for general public concern. Residents and workers returning to buildings where dust from the Trade Center has entered the building should follow proper procedures in cleaning buildings, but the general public should feel very reassured about the extensive environmental monitoring data that has been collected and analyzed. Rescue and recovery crews working on the Trade Center site should take steps to protect themselves from potential exposure to contaminants by using respirators and washing stations as recommended by EPA and OSHA.
In total, EPA and OSHA have taken 835 ambient air samples in the New York City metropolitan area. EPA is currently collecting data from 16 fixed air monitors at ground zero and in the residential and business districts around the site, and both EPA and OSHA are using portable sampling equipment to collect data from a range of locations throughout the area.
Out of a total of 442 air samples EPA has taken at ground zero and in the immediate area, only 27 had levels of asbestos above the standard EPA uses to determine if children can re-enter a school after asbestos has been removed -- a stringent standard based upon assumptions of long-term exposure. OSHA has analyzed 67 air samples from the same area, and all were below the OSHA workplace standard for asbestos.
All fifty-four air samples from EPA's four monitors in New Jersey found no levels above EPA's standard. Another 162 samples were taken from EPA's monitors at the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, where debris from the World Trade Center is being taken; only two exceeded EPA's standard.
Of 177 bulk dust and debris samples collected by EPA and OSHA and analyzed for asbestos, 48 had levels over 1 percent, the level EPA and OSHA use to define asbestos-containing material. Although early samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers showed some elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals, recent results find non-detectable levels of asbestos, and PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals below the level of concern.
EPA and OSHA have also conducted sampling for the presence of metals (lead, iron oxide, zinc oxide, copper and beryllium) at ground zero and in surrounding areas. None of the levels of these metals have exceeded OSHA limits.
Although EPA has measured dioxin levels in and around the World Trade Center site that were at or above EPA's level for taking action, the risk from dioxin is based on long-term exposure. EPA and OSHA expect levels to diminish as soon as the remaining fires on the site are extinguished.
Of the 36 samples of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) taken around ground zero to assist response workers in determining the appropriate level of respiratory protection, several samples have been above the OSHA standard for workers. None presented an immediate risk to workers, and the levels are expected to decline when the fires are out.
DROP OF 30 PERCENT IN USE OF ANIMALS IN SOME TESTS COULD BE QUICKLY ACHIEVED THROUGH USE OF CELLS
U.S. scientists are reducing the number of rodents in chemical safety testing to a fraction of the 50 to 200 animals used in the old LD50 test for toxicity, but the use of human or animal cell lines could immediately reduce the number of animals further -- as much as 30 percent more -- the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said in releasing two new federal interagency reports on alternative testing methods.
The old LD50 test (which stands for lethal dose 50 percent) rated the toxicity of chemicals by finding the dose that killed half the test animals. As now being modified by three more humane alternatives, only eight to 12 rodents are needed to estimate the lethal dose. The tests at issue determine if a chemical or product will cause illness or death in animals after ingestion of a single dose. Restrictions, warning labels and special packaging, such as child-proof containers, are based on the results.
The two new reports suggest that cell lines may eventually replace much animal testing but that even today cells (which are grown in cultures and reproduce indefinitely) can be used to screen chemicals for their relative toxicity, thereby further reducing the need for animals by nearly a third.
The reports say effective testing - including some requiring animals - remains necessary to reduce the risks of death, disfigurement and injury facing adults and children from chemicals in the workplace and in the home. Some 2.2 million human poisonings were reported to U.S. poison control centers in 1999 alone, with 873 deaths and 13,500 cases involving life-threatening symptoms or significant residual disability or disfigurement.
The statements on reducing animals used for testing were made with the release to the scientific community of the Report of the International Workshop on In Vitro Methods for Assessing Acute Systemic Toxicity (NIH Publication 01-4499) and an accompanying Guidance Document on Using In Vitro Data to Estimate In Vivo Starting Doses for Acute Toxicity (NIH Publication 01-4500.) NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program, which is headquartered at NIEHS, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency co-sponsored the workshop, which produced these documents and was attended by more than 100 scientists from eight countries.
So the effort has been to find tests that are as good, or better, than the older animal-intensive tests, and that may provide information more helpful in diagnosing and managing patients who become sick from ingesting toxic materials. Currently:
- On Aug. 21, in a meeting set up by the National Toxicology Program's Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, U.S. scientists agreed on final adjustments to a U.S. test called the Up-and-Down Procedure so that it can replace the LD50 test. Although it takes longer, the Up-and-Down test gives good results with as few as six to nine rats.
- Two other alternative tests, each using only eight to 14 rodents, have been developed in Europe. The Fixed Dose Procedure, first suggested by the British Toxicological Society in 1984, is based on dosing at a series of fixed dose levels, with 5 animals dosed at each level. The approach avoids the use of death as an endpoint, instead relying on the observation of clear signs of toxicity. The Acute Toxic Class Method, developed in Germany, is a stepwise procedure with the use of 3 animals per step. It is based on biometric evaluations of the results of fixed doses ( the same series of dose levels in the FDP), which are adequately separated to enable a substance to be ranked for hazard classification purposes.
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international trade group that includes several European countries, Japan and the United States is removing the old LD50 test from its guidelines. Within a year of final OECD approval, the older animal-intensive LD50 method can be replaced by the regulatory agencies of the member governments with less animal-intensive tests such as the three above. This official, international switch to the new tests is expected in the latter months of 2002.
- U.S. regulatory agencies are also moving to accept the new, substitute test results.
Much of the work to reduce animal test requirements has been fostered by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) which was organized by NIEHS in 1997 to evaluate new test methods. ICCVAM is composed of representatives from 15 federal agencies - the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, National Cancer Institute, Department of Energy, NIEHS, Department of the Interior, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Department of Transportation, National Library of Medicine and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. ICCVAM's work gets staff and other support from the National Toxicology Program's Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods, or NICEATM, which organized the workshops from which the two reports were developed.
Other alternatives which have gone into general use under ICCVAM's auspices have substituted for more animal-intensive tests for allergic contact dermatitis and for the corrosiveness of chemicals on the skin.
NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL APPLAUDS BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S AIRLINE SECURITY EFFORTS
Alan C. McMillan, President and CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC), expressed the Council's "unequivocal support" for President Bush's plans to enhance aviation safety and security.
McMillan said the steps announced this week by the President at Chicago's O'Hare Airport "are exactly what the nation needs to restore confidence in air travel and get our transportation system back to normal. Getting travelers back in the air is vital for the nation's safety as well as for the economy."
At O'Hare, President Bush announced an expansion of the Air Marshal program, steps to improve cockpit security aboard passenger aircraft, and improvements in airport security and screening services.
McMillan said it is critically important that Americans be aware of the risks they face by switching from air to motor vehicle travel, as many have done in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.
"At a time when Americans are struggling to return to their business and leisure activities, a widespread movement toward motor vehicle travel would put the nation at greater risk of increased injury and death on the highways," McMillan said. "Based on passenger-miles traveled over the period 1995 through 1999, and depending on the length and type of trip, the risk of death from driving is up to 37 times greater than from flying."
The difference in risk of passenger death between air and highway travel is due to many factors, including differences in the skill and training of pilots compared to drivers and constant monitoring and control of air traffic compared to virtually unmonitored highway traffic. McMillan noted that those who do drive can take common-sense steps to enhance their safety while on the highway such as insisting that all passengers use seat belts and child safety seats, and never getting behind the wheel after drinking.
McMillan said the NSC will work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the airline and travel industries and others to communicate with the public about the risks of driving vs. flying.
"The airline industry and the government are to be commended for making significant improvements in aviation safety," McMillan said. "The National Safety Council will work with employers, government agencies and communities across the nation to spread the message that the safest form of travel is, and will continue to be, air travel."
The National Safety Council is a not-for-profit, nongovernmental, international public service organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and dedicated to protecting life and promoting health. NSC's 37,500-plus member locations include businesses, labor organizations, schools, public agencies, private groups and individuals. Founded in 1913, NSC's scope has expanded to include highway, community and recreational safety, as well as occupational and environmental health. The NSC estimates that 4.2 million lives have been saved through improved safety practices since the Council was established.
MORE THAN 93,000 WORKERS DIED OF JOB INJURIES FROM 1980 TO 1995
Fatal work-related injuries claimed 93,338 lives from 1980 to 1995, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported in two new documents.
The new reports show numbers and rates of job-related fatalities by occupation, by industry, by age, and by cause for the 16-year period. The data will help researchers and policy makers identify high-risk occupations and industries for focusing injury prevention efforts, and will help efforts to assess trends over time to determine where risks may be growing. The findings also will help researchers develop further studies where more information is needed for targeting significant workplace safety hazards.
The reports are based on a comprehensive NIOSH assessment of data gathered from death certificates nation-wide. One report, "Fatal Injuries to Civilian Workers in the United States, 1980-1995 (National and State Profiles), DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-129S," provides both national and state-specific data. The other, "Fatal Injuries to Civilian Workers in the United States, 1980-1995 (National Profile)," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2001-129," includes only the national data for users who do not want the additional state-specific information.
In the new documents, NIOSH also reported that:
- The number and rate of fatal occupational injuries decreased from 1980 through 1995. The number decreased 28 percent from 7,343 deaths in 1980 to 5,314 in 1995. The average annual rate declined 42 percent from 7.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in 1980 to 4.3 per 100,000 in 1995.
- The greatest number of fatal occupational injuries for the 16-year period occurred in California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. The highest occupational fatality rates per 100,000 workers occurred in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
- Leading causes of job-related death during the 16-year period were motor vehicle crashes, homicides, machine-related incidents, falls, electrocutions, and being struck by falling objects.
- Male workers had a job-related fatality rate 11 times higher than the rate for female workers.
- Workers 65 years and older had the highest fatality rate of all age groups in every industry and occupation.
The two documents are available by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).
MINE SAFETY DIRECTOR PROMOTES HEIGHTENED SAFETY
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski is asking mines to have their employees take a brief time-out, or "stand down for safety," in the wake of a recent upturn in mine accidents.
"We're asking mine managers and foreman to take a brief time out at the beginning of each work shift to discuss the recent accidents," Lauriski said. We want to reach every miner on every shift in our nation's mines. We've come too far in mine safety already to let this turn into a trend."
Lauriski said he was concerned about the recent upsurge in fatal accidents, with four coal mine fatalities during one 10-day period in August, followed by a major fatal explosion in September. In the past week, two fatalities and a very serious injury occurred in metal and nonmetal mining.
"Our hearts grieve for the families of the miners who have lost their lives," Lauriski said. "We will provide all the technical help we can, and we conduct an investigation of each accident to find out what went wrong. At the same time we're asking each person in the whole mining community to stop, focus on safety and ask what can they can do every day to prevent a tragedy." Information on each mining fatality is available on the MSHA website under "Fatality Information."
Until the Brookwood, Ala., explosion, 19 coal miners had died on the job so far this year, compared with 29 at the same time last year. In metal and nonmetal mining, 22 miners have lost their lives so far this year compared with 38 as of this time last year.