Living-Today: Issues of modern living

By United Press International  |  April 15, 2002 at 4:45 AM
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told New York state lawmakers last Friday that it's considering paying for cleaning contaminated dust from apartments near where the World Trade Center once stood.

Such cleanup could costs tens of thousands of dollars per apartment.

Kathleen Callahan, acting director of Region 2 of the EPA, said the agency is developing a plan to find an unoccupied building with various amounts of dust so that cleaning methods advocated by the city's Department of Health can be tested. The EPA is also doing an inventory on what has been done to each building.

Friday's hearing, held in a packed Assembly hearing room at 250 Broadway, was co-chaired by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan, and Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Thomas DiNapoli, Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried and Labor Committee Chairwoman Catherine Nolan, all Democrats.

Silver and Gottfried had heated exchanges with Callahan for what they characterized as the federal agency's "leadfooting" and "deliberately misinterpreting the presidential directive to clean up 'Ground Zero.'"

"We did not need to wait 10 years for your plans, we need something now," Silver said.

According to Dr. Stephen Levin, medical director of Mt. Sinai, Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the cleanup of Lower Manhattan should be handled with resources from FEMA, it should be done professionally and it should not be put on building residents or building occupants to handle themselves.

"I don't believe that trusting landlords to do this correctly is the best public health policy," he said.

For months, the EPA has been under fire for not addressing the indoor air quality of Lower Manhattan and for allowing the city Health Department to advice tenants and landlords to clean up dust -- some that has tested positive for asbestos.

(Thanks to UPI's Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)


America's physicians were completely unprepared for last fall's anthrax-laced letters and the public outcry for information about bioterrorism.

But leaders of one medical organization now report the information gap has closed. The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) has been working overtime for the last seven months to bring its members, including about half of the nation's primary care doctors, up to speed.

The outfit's chief executive, Dr. Walter MacDonald, said the nation's adult doctors were as unprepared as their patients for the events of last fall, even though his organization already had started work on a bioterrism Web site. Now, however, he said the organization is near one of its stated goals: guaranteeing that every physician can identify an anthrax lesion.

The organization, which held its annual meeting last week in Philadelphia, has front-loaded its meeting with courses such as the psychological effects of bioterrorism and the "real" threat of biological terror. The courses have been given to standing room only crowds.

The organization's new online resource center walks the physician through the needed diagnostic steps for anthrax, smallpox, monkey pox, viral hemorrhagic fevers, plague and tularemia. It also offers a quick course in nerve agents and toxic gases. The site allows physicians to download -- to handheld devices that can be used at bedside -- special education programs that include diagnostic tips as well as pictures of lesions, pathology slides and symptom lists.

Perhaps most important, the programs explain when a physician should contact his or her local department of health, and how to contact his or her local FBI field office.

MacDonald said the most difficult piece of the re-education effort has been "getting physicians to think in a different way. Most doctors never thought that they would see anthrax or small pox, but 911 really fundamentally changed that."

(Thanks to Peggy Peck, UPI Science News)


NASA will launch Teacher-In-Space astronaut Barbara Morgan to the International Space Station possibly as early as 2004.

"It is time for NASA to complete the Challenger mission, to send an educator into space to inspire and teach our young people," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told an audience last Friday at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York.

Morgan, 50, has been training as an Educator Mission Specialist astronaut since 1998.

Teacher Christa McAuliffe was the first educator scheduled for a shuttle mission. She and six other astronauts were killed on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed in a launch explosion. NASA put the flight of citizens -- including teachers and journalists -- on hold following the Challenger disaster.

But Morgan, who entered training with McAuliffe and the Challenger crew, continued to train for space in the years following the accident until the 1998 decision to formalize her preparations by making her an astronaut. She has continued to train with other astronauts for flight aboard the shuttle but without a flight assignment.

In response to news about Morgan's prospective launch, ISS astronaut Carl Walz told an inflight news conference, "I think that's really fantastic. We wish her all the best."

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