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Cops, firefighters scaled back at Ground Zero

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York City is scaling down the number of firefighters and police officers at the World Trade Center recovery site, officials said Wednesday, citing health concerns.

The number of firefighters and cops sifting through the rubble will be reduced to 25 police officers and 25 firefighters by Friday, said Frank McCarton, a public information officer in the NYC Mayor's Office of Emergency Management.

The workers remaining on site will mainly consist of construction crews removing the debris. Firefighters will stay on the periphery of the recovery site and remove any human remains that are found, Giuliani's press office told CNN.

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It will be a far cry from the estimated 2,500 workers who have been assisting in recovery operations at any given time since the September 11 terrorist attacks brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the plan was based on the recommendations of safety experts brought in by the New York City Department of Design and Construction and the engineering-construction firm, Bechtel.

"This is all about safety," Giuliani said Wednesday. "We don't want any more casualties. We don't want any serious injuries.

''This is a very dangerous operation. We have to make certain everybody's wearing their equipment, everybody's being careful, and everything's being done in a coordinated way," he said.

Under a unified command system, the New York Fire Department will work with the city's Department of Design and Construction, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management and the New York Police Department from now on in the recovery effort.

Giuliani said while there have been no deaths resulting from the recovery work, there have been two serious injuries and a ''a lot'' of minor injuries.

Public health advisory

The New York City Health Department has issued a public health advisory for residents living in lower Manhattan and for recovery workers. While it said the general public's risk for health effects stemming from asbestos are extremely low, dust, ash, soot and other burning materials could aggravate breathing problems.

Health officials have reported an increase of respiratory problems among firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center site immediately after the attack.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site, samples taken from the immediate area indicated dioxin levels were above the acceptable limit.

The EPA also found levels of benzene in the debris pile exceeded permissible levels prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


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