SURFSIDE, Fla. – It’s been more than two weeks since the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominiums in Surfside, and now questions about the safety of search crews and residents have arisen due to the recent demolition of the standing structure and all the debris.
Air samples have shown that the air is hazardous, especially on top of and around the rubble pile.
Video taken near the scene of the collapse shows dust particles and debris flying through the air as teams work to recover bodies.
Local 10 News obtained a picture of two air samples. The top is a random air sample taken at the University of Miami, showing particles in the air.
The bottom is a sample of air taken from the rubble pile. The two are drastically different.
“We will probably never know everything we’ve been exposed to out there,” said Billy McAllister, president of Metropolitan Dade County Local 1403.
Crews are working 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day. So far, about 13 million pounds of rubble have been removed.
Materials released in the air can be inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin, which can lead to cancer and respiratory disease.
So while search teams work to find the missing, others are working to keep them safe.
“Dr. Perzant runs the World Trade Center Respiratory Health Initiative, and we were in communication with him very early on, and asking for tips and improvements he would suggest we can implement here locally,” McAllister said.
P100 masks are required, as well as gloves and protective coverings.
“In the first few hours, not everyone had P100′s, which are the ones with the purple cartridges,” McAllister said. “We worked with Miami-Dade Fire and other community partners to ensure everyone who was working on top of the collapse was wearing a P100, which is the proper respiratory protection.”
“There are air monitoring stations out there, collecting data continuously and then there are other things out there that are collecting intermittently,” he added.
The International Association of Firefighters is working with the University Of Miami and UM has donated labs, space and equipment.
The association will be testing firefighters for toxins that may penetrate their protective equipment.
After 9/11, more than 1,000 firefighters developed cancer, 44 of who died. Another 10,600 have been diagnosed with respiratory disease.
The biggest fear…
“It is the unknown. We don’t know what we don’t know,” McAllister said. “That is our job. We have to be there.”
As far as we know right now, no air quality testing is being done off site, but several residents and community leaders have suggested the Environmental Protection Agency come in and monitor the air. At this point, that has not happened.