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Worker Safety

Tens of thousands of people are working to clean up the city, and city residents are starting to return to their homes. Most of the people we observed in areas with contaminated sludge and sediment were without any protective equipment. It was unusual to see workers wearing respirators, boots, gloves and protective suits. Workers often had sludge and dirt smeared on their bare skin, and were working in clouds of dust. The men and women who are working in the city every day on the cleanup effort are at highest risk for health problems, including injuries, illnesses from the sewage contamination, rashes from the chemicals in the sludge, and long-term health risks such as respiratory disease and cancer. The agencies in charge of the cleanup did not appear to be providing adequate personal protective equipment to the workers, and were not providing sufficient warnings and information to people who were returning to visit their homes in affected areas. -- GS

Photos all pages: Erik Olson and Gina Solomon



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