The collapse of the World Trade Towers brought the dangers of toxic dust to the attention of New Yorkers like personal injury lawyer David Perecman.
Now air toxins from construction of the Second Avenue subway may be threatening the health of city citizens and Perecman, a personal injury lawyer in New York for over 30 years, is concerned. As work on the new tunnel moves forward, there are increasing questions about air quality near the Upper East Side construction site. While the dust has not been officially classified as toxic, its potentially harmful effects have been on the mind of many area workers and residents.
“Area residents have reason to feel skeptical about the quality of air they’re breathing. More than two weeks after the 9-11 attacks, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was reassuring. He said, ‘The air quality is safe and acceptable’ and other officials backed his statement up,” said Perecman.
Construction of the Second Avenue Subway is causing many New Yorkers to complain about “noxious odors and dust plumes.”
Blasting and near-constant drilling are thought to be large contributors to the poor air quality and terrible smell. On a regular basis, area residents and politicians, like Rep. Carolyn Maloney, have been asking the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to confirm that the site is safe.
This past Saturday, it was reported that the MTA said dust monitoring devices have exceeded established levels in the past month.
The MTA is now assuring residents that the dust will be hosed down as construction moves forward. Hosing helps reduce dust that can create health problems.
MTA officials are also considering a plan to send uniformed inspectors to the area to answer questions about environmental concerns.
In 2009, Our Town, the community newsletter of the Upper East Side, reported that the MTA and contractor Skanska Construction Company said that the quality of the soil being excavated does not contain any pollutants after soil tests looked for more than 200 different materials that could be dangerous, including mercury, petroleum and asbestos.
However in the same article, Our Town also reported that area health providers heard increased complaints about breathing problems and allergies after the project started. Complaints included headaches, asthma, allergies and severe coughs stemming from dust.
Currently, the construction zone extends for 22 blocks, from 90th to 68th Street. Complaints have been most recently heard from the area around East 69th Street and Second Avenue where the MTA is blasting “all day long,” according to one area resident.
“The safety and well-being of citizens should always come first. When questions about air quality and health are raised, answers and action should be immediate,” said Perecman.
People who are more likely to be at risk of personal injury because of toxic dust include asthmatics, the elderly and heavy smokers.
After the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11, a number of rescue workers who helped on the site, were diagnosed with illnesses that were linked to Ground Zero toxic dust, including silicosis, asbestosis, chronic infections, sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and mesothelioma, a rare type of lung cancer often associated with asbestos exposure.
“The long term health effects for people living near the subway construction remain to be seen and evaluated. But questions are being raised now. Officials should take the tragic and very expensive lessons of 9-11 seriously,” said New York personal injury lawyer Perecman.
All responders suffering long-term injury from exposure to Ground Zero can file a compensation claim under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Zadroga Act, a $4.3 billion fund for the victims of 9/11, was established to provide health services and financial compensation to the thousands of sick and injured rescue and recovery workers made ill by Ground Zero toxic dust. However, anyone who files a claim will have to prove in the court that their illness is connected to the Ground Zero toxins in New York, Perecman added.