March 28, 2012
By John Bae, Staff Writer LaborPress
The Second Avenue Subway construction site was found to have deadly levels of silica during a federal safety inspection. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that exposure to the carcinogen may aid in the development of silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. According to documents obtained by The New York Post, air samples taken at the East 69th Street and Second Avenue construction site were found to have unacceptably high levels of silica.
Samples from the site were taken after State Assembly Member Micah Kellner raised concerns about the possibility of pollutants coming from the construction of the Second Avenue line and the exposure to the community surrounding the construction. Late last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted the tests and the results were released recently.
Uniformed traffic officers that direct traffic on the street are constantly exposed to the contaminated air. Standing for hours without any protection, they are inhaling these dangerous particles unbeknownst to workers at the site. And having no prior notice, traffic agents in the area did not go for immediate medical checkups.
James Huntley, President of CWA Local 1182, says, “Exposure to the carcinogen causes health problems in the long run. Our traffic agents working around these construction sites should be given the proper equipment to guard against exposure.” Mr. Huntley’s concern extends to the surrounding community as well. “In addition to our workers, the communities around these sites are constantly exposed to the health hazard. Children are especially vulnerable, and the long-term risks cannot be factored out.”
Pennie Noel, a traffic enforcement agent of Command T-109, works near the construction site and is concerned for her health. “Around the hours of 3:30 PM and 5:30PM, there would be explosions underground that causes huge dust storm,” she says. “The fumes can be suffocating, and I am worried about getting sick later.” There has already been one person reported to have suffered from exposure to the carcinogens. It is uncertain how many others may be afflicted without realizing it.
The MTA states that there are no reasons for concerns because the silica does not rise into the air; instead, they report that the particles drop to the ground.