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6-10-2015, 16:24

Difficulty of Using Respirators

It was impossible to dig with a respirator on. It was extremely hot, and none of us had our masks on. I was inhaling all that stuff because they were passing buckets over my head and all this stuff was falling on me and the dust was being kicked up. One guy looked down at me and said, “You should put your mask on.” But the mask just didn't matter to me at that point. That may sound very foolish, but it wasn't my health that mattered. It was getting the people out that mattered the most.

Comment by police officer Patty Lucci, quoted in Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba, Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion (New York: Alpha Books, 2002), 157.

Found that the firefighters were the most reluctant to use the respirators (although they were not alone), objecting that their sense of smell was vital to locating some remains. OSHA reported that fewer than 45 percent of Ground Zero workers wore respirators.

An excavator claws at debris at the site of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, December 3, 2001. (AP/Wide World Photos)

OSHA’s main responsibility was monitoring air samples. Its agents took 3,600 bulk and air samples looking for metals, asbestos, silica, and other airborne compounds. Despite these efforts, the air around the World Trade Center site remained toxic. Most OSHA tests check for the existence of individual compounds, but the air at the World Trade Center was a chemical soup.

Stephen E. Atkins

See also Cleanup Operations at Ground Zero; Firefighters at Ground Zero; Health Effects of September 11

Suggested Reading

Rayman, Graham. “9/11 Five Years Later; Still More Blame amid Lasting Pain.” News-day [New York], September 9, 2006, A6.

Stranahan, Susan Q. “The Health of Ground Zero.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 24, 2002, 11A.