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OSHA releases initial post-Sandy toxic exposure report

In late December, we wrote about a warning released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding potential mold exposure risks for post-Sandy cleanup workers in New York, New Jersey and other affected areas. OSHA recently released its initial findings about the rate of toxic exposure these workers are experiencing. Thankfully, the news is good for now.

Currently, none of the sites surveyed by OSHA have toxic exposure limits that exceed ordinary workplace standards set by the agency. That means that at this time, post-Sandy cleanup sites are free from dangerous levels of toxins, as far as OSHA is aware. It is worth noting however, that certain sites like public roads, parks, private businesses and private homes are still in the process of being tested and thus statistics about toxic exposure limits at these sites have yet to be released.

Granted, toxic substances were indeed present in either the air, water or both at many of the dozens of landfills, public gathering areas and beaches that OSHA tested. These found substances included asbestos, silica, carbon monoxide, mold and lead. However, none of the substances found exceeded acceptable limits.

Of course, certain toxins develop over time and mold exposure in particular may become more of a significant danger as semi-frozen worksites thaw out. But for now, workers are most likely in a fairly safe position with regards to post-Sandy toxic exposure.

However, OSHA's New York regional administrator recently explained the most important aspect of the findings as follows, "These initial results should not be taken by employers as an "all clear" signal regarding potential exposure to health hazards. It is important that each employer continually ensure that workers are not overexposed."

Source: Star Tribune, "Tests at NY, NJ Sandy cleanup sites show contaminant levels below federal exposure limits," Katie Zezima, Jan. 9, 2013

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