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New Safety Scare For Ground Zero Workers

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In a CBS 2 exclusive, four years after the 9/11 attacks, a new danger has surfaced at Ground Zero. A safety equipment recall means many workers at the site who thought they were protected may not have been.

Four years ago, Rhonda Shearer voluntarily brought thousands of masks purchased with her own money to Ground Zero because the city didn’t have enough.

Now she has learned there was something seriously wrong with some of the respirator masks used by the men and women who worked at the site. These were masks that were supposed to keep them safe from the toxic smoke and dust. On Tuesday, she received a recall notice that one type of mask, the Survivair P-100, was tested and found to be defective. The notice says you must immediately stop using this product.

Everybody from the ironworkers to the Port Authority police, to the NYPD units, the elite FDNY units, the sock units. They all had to use them. I remember very distinctly the blue facemask. It is a very distinct color and I’m an artist, but I do remember that they were down there in large quantities,” says Rhonda Shearer, Ground Zero volunteer.

It is the blue masks that are in question. An audit test by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicates a seal problem where the filter meets the mask allowing in three times the particular matter allowable under federal standards. John Dunne is a safety expert at the Uniformed Fire Officer’s Union.

“It probably explains why so many of our firefighters have come down with respiratory ailments ranging from lung cancer to asthma. This might explain it. The masks were defective,” says Dunne.

“I see in my mind’s eye, men and women putting these on and they failed to protect them,” says Shearer.

This recall applies to Survivair full and half mask respirators with P-100 filters. At this point, it is difficult to determine how many people were wearing the defective masks since the majority of the masks used in this area were donated.

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