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OSHA Finds Carcinogens on Your New Subway Line

March 21, 2012 —

Fresh on the heels of FACE’s 2011 report on state-by-state workplace fatalities comes shocking news of an excessive amount of the known carcinogen silica in an underground construction site — for a New York City subway. The 2nd Avenue subway line is an exciting expansion to a subway system that doesn’t extend farther east than Lexington Avenue. However, its construction seems to be moving at terrible cost, reports the New York Post. The drilling is dredging up dust particles laden with silica, which leads to a chronic, incurable, and eventually deadly form of cancer.

A construction worker, sans face mask, underground along the 2nd Avenue subway line. (Jake Dobkin/Gothamist)

OSHA investigators found that the Manhattan Transit Authority, and the three companies to which the MTA contracted out on the project, allowed silica levels to grow to nearly three times the maximum legal limit. A sample taken on November 5 was revealed, according to reports released by New York Assemblyman Micah Kellner, to contain amounts of the carcinogen high enough to be dangerous to anyone underground.

OSHA has fined the site’s contractors, Schiavone, Shea, and Kiewit, for the safety violations, but the MTA does not recognize any direct danger from the silica. Anyone with a properly fitted face mask, it claims, can escape the construction site without harm, and anyone above ground should not experience symptoms of what the Assemblyman is calling “the Second Avenue cough.” Says MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, “The levels of silica underground noted in these preliminary findings under no circumstance impacts air quality at street level.” Apparently OSHA violations are nothing to worry about, as they “stemmed from one incident in which a worker was exposed to high levels due to an improperly sized mask.”

Another reminder, courtesy of

In other words, says the Gothamist, not to worry, everyone! You’re coughing because the weather is changing, and all construction workers are wearing facemasks. Just check out the picture at the front of this article for evidence.

– R. Fogel


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