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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - February 8, 2002: Health Effects of World Trade Center Attack - 2002-02-07

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

There are growing environmental concerns about the air near the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City. The two huge buildings were destroyed September eleventh when terrorists crashed two passenger planes into them. Some people say they are suffering health problems as a result of the attacks.

When the World Trade Center fell, it left about one-million tons of crushed concrete, glass and dust. Some people fear that cancer-causing substances may have been released into the air from the resulting fires and smoke. For example, asbestos and other harmful substances were used in building the World Trade Center.

The wreckage of the World Trade Center covers more than six hectares of land. Since September eleventh, federal, state and local agencies have been testing the air in and around the wreckage area.

Scientists from universities, medical schools and private companies also are doing tests. They are looking for the presence of pollutants in the air that might present a health risk to the workers removing the wreckage and to the public. Federal officials say no long-term health risks have been discovered so far.

Yet, doctors say many of the workers have been suffering from severe cough, chest pain, nose bleeds and breathing problems. Many workers with continuing problems have taken legal action against the city.Doctors say rescue workers and other people who worked in the area for a long period of time are most at risk for health problems. They say workers who did not wear protective coverings on their faces are at even greater risk.

About forty-thousand people live near the ruins of the World Trade Center. Some of these people worry that open trucks carrying the wreckage from the area are still spreading pollutants.

Some people have criticized New York City’s clean-up efforts. They say many buildings in the area have not been cleaned. And they say the information released to the public from air quality tests is often confusing. They say the federal government should supervise clean up efforts.

Doctors in New York City are organizing a study of the hundreds of pregnant women who were near the World Trade Center on the day of the attack. They will examine the possible health effects of smoke and dust on pregnant women and their babies.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.