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Profile: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)


Positions that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has held:




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Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) actively participated in the following events:


April 1980      Environmental Impact

       The Asbestos Work Group, a joint effort between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), concludes that “[e]xcessive cancer risks ... have been demonstrated at all [asbestos] fiber concentrations studied to date. Evaluation of all available human data provides no evidence for a threshold or for a ‘safe’ level of asbestos exposure.” In very clear terms, the study adds that “there is no level of exposure below which clinical effects do not occur.” [Sources: Workplace Exposure to Asbestos, 4/1980]
People and organizations involved: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

(Afternoon September 11, 2001)-July 18, 2002      Environmental Impact

       The EPA sets up more than 30 fixed air-quality monitors in and around Ground Zero as well as regional monitors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to test for the presence of certain contaminants. [Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] More than 30 such air monitors are also positioned at various locations in the Staten Island Landfill, where the WTC debris will be taken. [Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] Additionally, both the EPA and OSHA operate portable sampling equipment to collect data from a variety of other surrounding locations. [Environmental Protection Agency, 7/18/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.; Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.] The equipment, however, does not test the air for fiberglass, a common building material and a known carcinogen [Occupational Hazards, 1/25/02] , or mercury in airborne dusts (although they do test for mercury in its vapor state). [Jenkins, 7/4/2003] Critics will argue that monitoring outdoor air is insufficient since it will ultimately be diluted because of wind and diffusion—unlike indoor air, which clings to fabrics and is trapped within walls. [International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, 1/21/02] Aside from a few exceptions (see September 13, 2001-September 19, 2001), the EPA will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method for counting asbestos fibers instead of electron microscope technology (see September 12, 2001) which provides far more accurate results. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/14/2004; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/28/01]
People and organizations involved: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 

September 14, 2001      Environmental Impact

       EPA and OSHA announce that the majority of air and dust samples monitored in New York's financial district “do not indicate levels of concern for asbestos” and that ambient air quality “meets OSHA standards.” The two agencies also say that OSHA has new data indicating that indoor air quality in downtown buildings “will meet standards.” The agencies' conclusions are based on samples taken on September 13. “OSHA staff walked through New York's Financial District ... wearing personal air monitors and collected data on potential asbestos exposure levels. All but two samples contained no asbestos.... Air samples taken ... inside buildings in New York's financial district were negative for asbestos. Debris samples collected outside buildings on cars and other surfaces contained small percentages of asbestos, ranging from 2.1 to 3.3—slightly above the 1 percent trigger for defining asbestos material.” [Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 9/14/01; Environmental Protection Agency, 9/14/01] But the EPA improperly implies that the one percent level is a safety benchmark (see (September 12, 2001)), even though it had previously acknowledged that airborne asbestos particles are unsafe at any level (see September 14, 2001). Furthermore, its test results are not accurate, as they are based on the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method, which is incapable of identifying fine fibers and which cannot reliably detect asbestos when it is present in concentrations below one percent (see November 20, 1990).
People and organizations involved: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency

September 16, 2001      Environmental Impact

       The EPA and OSHA release a joint statement asserting that the air in downtown New York City is safe to breathe. “[N]ew samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern,” the agencies claim. [EPA, 9/16/01] But it is later learned that the press release had been heavily edited under pressure from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Critical passages in the original draft were either deleted or modified to downplay public health risks posed by contaminants that were released into the air during the collapse of the World Trade Center. [Newsday, 8/26/03; EPA Office of Inspector General, 8/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)

November 1, 2001      Environmental Impact

       Nicole Pollier, a legal intern at Center for Constitutional Rights, testifies before the Environment Committee of the New York City Council and discusses health concerns at the WTC recovery site. She says that the Center found that “virtually none of the people working at the WTC disaster site are or have been wearing any personal protective equipment,” which the organization attributes to a lack of organized training. Only 5-10 percent of the workers wear disposable dust masks, she said. Additionally, “workers leaving the site are not decontaminated, nor do they use the washing stations that have been set up at the perimeter of the site by volunteer organizations.” Pollier says the Center blames OSHA which has taken the position that the site's designation as a “search and rescue” operation denies it the authority to enforce safety laws. There have been “no mandated training sessions, and no enforcement of personal protective equipment requirements or exposure monitoring requirements,” she explains. Instead, OSHA has played a consultative role as a technical advisor. Pollier says that the Center disagrees with OSHA's position, calling attention to a 1991 directive entitled “OSHA Response to Significant Events of Potentially Catastrophic Consequences,” which states: “The OSH Act requires that OSHA respond to catastrophic events....” [Sources: Pollier testimony, 11/8/01]
People and organizations involved: Nicole Pollier, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

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