Since the attacks, rescue and recovery workers, residents, and students in Lower Manhattan have complained of bloody noses, sinus infections, and other respiratory illnesses.
The day following the attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found asbestos levels above a threshold of concern at Ground Zero. The EPA has stated that the outdoor downtown air quality does not pose long-term health risks. Regarding indoor air, there are differences over whether EPA or local authorities should have responsibility for such risks. EPA says it has the lead on outdoor issues while New York City officials are in charge of indoor matters.
Both the federal agency and local health officials have been criticized by local, state, and national lawmakers for failing to notify the public about the long-term effects associated with the buildings’ collapse. Private tests have shown high asbestos levels and government documents also have revealed levels exceeding federal limits for hazardous pollutants such as dioxin, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), benzene, lead, and chromium.
The EPA ombudsman's office is investigating the agency's role in air quality testing and the city's cleanup efforts. EPA says it collects data from more than 20 stationary monitors in and around Ground Zero, as well as at sites in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. It also uses portable testing equipment from several other locations.
Publication date: 02/11/2002