Officials Test Levels of Asbestos at WTC Site

Since the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York collapsed on Sept. 11, there has been a concern about asbestos being released into the air at the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting tests to measure the levels of asbestos and other pollutants in dust and air samples at ground zero. Fortunately, in the two months following the attacks, few samples were found to be above federal standards in thousands tested.

However, some workers at ground zero have reported a persistent cough, sore throat and other respiratory problems they claim is a result of prolonged exposure to the smoke and dust. The condition has been dubbed the "World Trade Center cough."

Although the majority of the tests show levels of contaminants including asbestos at low risk to the general public, workers at ground zero could be at a higher risk because of the long hours they spend in the dusty environment. Therefore, workers are encouraged to wear protective gear. Meanwhile, officials continue to monitor the site.

Commercial production of asbestos insulation began in 1879, and until the early 1970s, asbestos was widely used for insulation and fireproofing because its fibers are strong, flexible and do not burn.

However, it was discovered that asbestos is potentially harmful when dust from the manufacture and installation of asbestos-laden materials releases fibers into the air. When inhaled, it can lead to serious health problems including lung cancer and mesothelioma - a cancer of the lining of the chest or abdomen.

Because of the long latency period of asbestos disease, which can span 15 to 30 years, people do not develop it immediately after exposure.

Despite a federal ban on the production of most asbestos products in the early 1970s, installation of these products continued through the late '70s and into the early '80s. Workers in many industries including construction, automotive and shipping have come in contact with asbestos- containing material. Because asbestos fibers are airborne, workers can bring them home on their clothes.

If you have been exposed to airborne asbestos on the job and have been diagnosed with a related illness, you may be able to receive financial compensation by filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the asbestos products to which you were exposed. Weitz and Luxenberg, a 51-attorney firm in New York that specializes in asbestos cases, can help you through the procedure.

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