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Will Sandy leave construction workers vulnerable to toxic exposure?

As power and running water are returned to residents across Manhattan, and New Yorkers return to the office in the after math of Sandy, it is starting to feel less like the world is ending. However, as workers toil to clean up New York City, and the rest of the region impacted by Sandy, it could be years before we see the full impact of Sandy.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, rescue workers did not hesitate to excavate the debris of the World Trade Centers to pull victims out. It wasn't until very recently that the lingering health consequences rescue workers sustained due to toxic exposure were fully realized. Consequently, a $4.3 billion Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund was erected to assist those with serious medical issues sustained from their involvement in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

Similarly, with the exposure to dangerous flood water contaminated with a host of unknown and dangerous toxins, Sandy leaves rescue workers vulnerable to all kinds of infection and illness. Further, while the cooler temperatures will inhibit the growth of mold, after water has been standing for three days, the probability that mold will grow increases exponentially. It is not always possible to spot mold either, as it can grow in between walls and unseen crevices.

Therefore, construction and excavation workers could be at risk in the future if mold grows rampant in buildings across the city. This could mean that demolition and construction sites could leave workers vulnerable to toxic exposure if not properly handled. While OSHA does require employers to properly protect workers in such instances, employers will often cut corners to save on costs. If this happens and a worker falls ill, this negligent act could mean financial liability for employers.

At this point in time, it is difficult to predict any ramifications Sandy will have on future construction sites, but workers in New York City are reminded that they can stand to recoup financially in the face of toxic exposure, whether the exposure is linked to Sandy or not.

Source: New York Observer, "Mold News: Sandy Leaves Toxic Trouble," Constantine Valhouli, Nov. 7, 2012

  • Our firm has experience aiding workers similarly afflicted. For more information, please visit our New York toxic exposure page.