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Working closely with City, State and Federal agencies since September 11, the New York City Department of Health has been conducting several public health activities in response to the World Trade Center disaster. Foremost among these are monitoring air quality in the general vicinity of the World Trade Center, working with other agencies to ensure that worker safety measures for search and rescue workers are in place, conducting surveillance for illnesses and injuries at New York City Hospitals, and mobilizing environmental investigation teams to ensure the safety of the food and water supplies.
While excavation continues at the site, the Health Department has been monitoring the air quality tests being conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Workers who are involved in the recovery mission have been equipped with half-face masks and goggles, as well as protective clothing, to reduce exposure to any particulate matter including dust. Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, the general public's risk for any short or long term adverse health effects are very low. A fact sheet detailing DOH recommendations can be found on the DOH website at nyc.gov/health.
The Health Department has produced a Public Health Advisory for residents and people returning to work in the nearby area. Residents and workers are advised to guard against dust and soot which can cause respiratory symptoms and eye and throat irritation. Residents in the immediate area are advised to keep windows closed and to avoid strenuous outdoor activity in the area affected. A fact sheet detailing DOH recommendations can be found on the DOH website at nyc.gov/health.
The New York City Department of Health is monitoring several medical issues throughout the City.
*The Main Office of the NYC DOH has been temporarily relocated to 455 1st Avenue.
Staff are working on site in selected hospital emergency departments to assess event-related injury and illnesses which may occur subsequent to the World Trade Center disaster. To bolster the Department's efforts, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are assisting in efforts to monitor diseases, conduct a medical and mental health needs assessment, identify health problems such as dust and allergic conditions, and to determine if there are any new medical needs. Testing done by the New York City Department of Health immediately after the blast showed no evidence of any biologic or chemical agents.
While health risks associated with the handling of corpses by the rescue workers are low, the Department of Health has recommended the use of universal precautions when handling human remains. This includes wearing face shields, protective garments, and heavy duty rubber gloves to prevent exposure to blood or body fluids, with attention to sharp fragments of bone and debris that can pose a risk of percutaneous injury. The decomposing remains of human bodies poses no environmental health risk to the general public.
The Health Department and the Department of Environmental Protection are monitoring water quality in the area around ground zero. Test results of the area north of blast zone are within acceptable limits, but tests are ongoing.
The Health Department has prioritized permitted food establishments below Canal Street for inspection so that they may be operational as soon as possible. Environmental investigators are working with restaurant owners and the operators of other permitted food establishments to ensure safety of the food served. Additionally, the Health Department is overseeing the distribution of food served to rescue workers at the blast zone.
The Health Department is currently conducting a survey of the blast zone and the surrounding areas in lower Manhattan to assess the impact of the blast on rodent activity. Working in concert with other city agencies including the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Sanitation, Health Department crews will mobilize inspectors, exterminators, and clean-up crews to abate conditions conducive to rodent harborage, as necessary.
For more information, please visit the Health Department's website (nyc.gov/health). Fact sheets and public health advisories will be posted soon to address:
U.S. Government Website