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Task force wants strict NYC environmental rules

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Concerned that the airborne debris from the World Trade Center wreckage is damaging people's health, a task force of New York politicians called Monday for strict environmental guidelines in the cleanup effort.

In a news conference, members of the Ground Zero Elected Officials Task Force said they will push for a single city agency under the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee all environmental aspects of the Lower Manhattan cleanup efforts.

"We must take the time to guarantee that the residents' health and safety are first and foremost protected," the task force said, in a press release. "This designated oversight agency will do just that."

The task force -- made up of local New York politicians, including U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler -- said area residents and business owners have complained about not being able to access information on air quality near the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks from the different agencies involved in the cleanup.

Two hijacked planes slammed into both towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, collapsing the towers and several surrounding buildings, killing thousands.

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The estimated amount of total debris is 1.2 million tons, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Citing specific examples of hazardous practices by clean-up crews, the task force noted that trucks carrying debris from the site are often uncovered.

"Dust is sprayed into the air when the debris is removed from the trucks," the statement said, noting that the dump site is near Stuyvesant High School and several residential buildings.

"Both students and residents in that area have complained of skin irritation, headaches and coughs that may be associated with the spread of the dust," the task force stated.

The panel cited the results of an independent air quality study taken shortly after the terrorist attacks, which found a vast array of toxins and metals in the air. None was at a hazardous level, but the scientists said all dust should be treated as toxic.

The scientists outlined specific cleanup methods that would ensure the safety of people in the area.


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