Courtesy KCRA TV - Sacramento, CA
DAVIS, Calif. -- Rescue workers who have been stationed at ground zero in New York are now being checked for health complications after several reports of what is being called "World Trade Center cough."
And now UC Davis is studying that air to determine if it's harmful.
Toxic chemicals are being released from the ground zero rubble that simply do not satisfy federal safety standards.
So far, there are no indications of any long-term health risks. But that's what UC Davis researchers intend to find out, and that's what some local firefighters who worked at the site want to know.
Health experts in New York believe that potentially harmful particles of materials are rising from the rubble, like asbestos, fiberglass, benzene, dioxin and Freon.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls ground zero the most dangerous worksite in America. So the air swirling around the world trade center is going under a microscope.
Tom Cahill is a researcher at UC Davis. He will be leading a group of delta team scientists who will study five weeks worth of ground zero air to determine exactly how harmful the atmosphere of the World Trade Center is. "You have 100 floors of computers, all of which have gone to the basement and been raised to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and boiled away whatever they have in them. That's what we're worried about," Cahill said.
The Sacramento based Urban Search and Rescue team, or USAR, spent two weeks at ground zero, climbing over rubble and deep into rubble caverns.
"There were several things that were off gassing down there, and they're not sure exactly what was in the air," USAR spokesman Pat Ellis said.
USAR leaders said that no members are reporting any serious health after-affects but are eager to learn what the results will show.
"We're just going to wait and see what the result of the testing is and just hope again that it doesn't have an adverse effect on our people," Ellis said.
Environmental Protection Agency documents show that the presence of soil and air contaminants including dioxins, PCBs, lead and chromium are sometimes at levels exceeding federal standards. So there's great concern.
Testing begins next week. UC Davis researchers hope that within a few weeks they'll be able to determine just how dangerous the World Trade Center air is right now.